Study: Happy youngsters more likely to grow into wealthy adults

November 19, 2012

The first in-depth investigation of whether youthful happiness leads to greater wealth in later life reveals that, even allowing for other influences, happy adolescents are likely to earn more money as adults.

Dr Jan-Emmanuel De Neve (UCL Political Science) and Professor Andrew Oswald (University of Warwick) analysed data from 15,000 adolescents and in the USA, finding that those who report higher 'positive affect', which is a technical measure of happiness, or higher '' grow up to earn significantly higher levels of income later in life.

Their study found that happy individuals' greater wealth is due, in part, to the fact that happy people are more likely to get a degree, find work, and get promoted quicker than their gloomier counterparts.

And greater happiness has a big : the study shows, for example, that a one-point increase in life satisfaction (on a scale of 5) at the age of 22 is associated with almost $2,000 higher earnings per annum at the age of 29. This is on top of other influences on incomes.

The researchers paid to instances of siblings in the data, demonstrating that even in children growing up in the same family, happier youngsters tend to go on to earn higher levels of income. Their results are robust to the inclusion of other important factors such as education, , , IQ, self-esteem, and current happiness.

The researchers also studied how happiness may influence income. Mediation tests reveal a direct effect as well as indirect effects that carry the influence from happiness to income. Significant mediating pathways include obtaining a degree and a job, higher degrees of optimism and , and less neuroticism.

Dr De Neve said: "These findings have important implications for academics, policy makers, and the general public.

"For academics they reveal the strong possibility for reverse causality between income and happiness – a relationship that most have assumed unidirectional and causal. For policy makers, they highlight the importance of promoting general well-being (GWB), not just because happiness is what the general population aspires to (instead of GDP) but also for its economic impact.

"Perhaps most importantly, for the general public – and parents in particular – these findings show that the emotional well-being of children and adolescents is key to their future success, yet another reason to ensure we create emotionally healthy home environments."

Explore further: Targeted health support needed for those with lower IQs

More information: The paper, "Estimating the influence of life satisfaction and positive affect on later income using sibling fixed effects", is published in the 19 November edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Related Stories

Targeted health support needed for those with lower IQs

September 27, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Targeted health support is necessary for people with lower IQs according to new research which shows that they are unhappier and more likely to have poorer health than people with higher IQs. 

Recommended for you

Talking to yourself can help you control stressful emotions

July 26, 2017
The simple act of silently talking to yourself in the third person during stressful times may help you control emotions without any additional mental effort than what you would use for first-person self-talk – the way people ...

Heart rate study tests emotional impact of Shakespeare

July 26, 2017
In a world where on-screen violence has become commonplace, Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company is turning to science to discover whether the playwright can still make our hearts race more than 400 years on.

Do all people experience similar near-death-experiences?

July 26, 2017
No one really knows what happens when we die, but many people have stories to tell about what they experienced while being close to death. People who have had a near-death-experience usually report very rich and detailed ...

Risk for bipolar disorder associated with faster aging

July 26, 2017
New King's College London research suggests that people with a family history of bipolar disorder may 'age' more rapidly than those without a history of the disease.

Visual clues we use during walking and when we use them

July 25, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers with the University of Texas and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has discovered which phase of visual information processing during human walking is used most to guide the feet accurately. ...

Toddlers begin learning rules of reading, writing at very early age, study finds

July 25, 2017
Even the proudest of parents may struggle to find some semblance of meaning behind the seemingly random mish-mash of letters that often emerge from a toddler's first scribbled and scrawled attempts at putting words on paper.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.