The macabre truth of the correlation between money and happiness is that the two enjoy a direct correlation but up to a certain point beyond which social economists argue that individuals experience a diminishing utility. Individuals usually view amassing more wealth as the gateway to being happier. In their pursuit for happiness, they end up in a constant chase for more wealth. Psychologists says that this leads to the hedonic treadmill scenario. Whereby the chase for money becomes elusive. Once an individual has attained the wealth they had initially aspired to, they set out for more financial acquisitions resulting in an elusive cycle of seeking material satisfaction which really never ends (Ryan and Deci, 141166).
Using money as the yardstick of measuring our happiness levels leads us into chasing a moving target. We end up chasing money and since money is numbers and numbers never end, the chase never ends too. If ultimate satisfaction would be acquired by attaining maximum amount of wealth, then logic would dictate that more affluent persons would be generally happier than their poorer counterparts. However, various studies have shown that happiness index does not necessarily directly relate to wealth. Many affluent individuals are usually unhappy as the stress of acquiring more and protecting their already acquired wealth hits them. For instance, more wealth was acquired in America in the second half of the 20th century but this did not necessarily increase the levels of happiness.
More money means more happiness but only to some point. A poor person would generally equate money to happiness as they try to escape their poverty shackles. Once above the poverty line, other factors rather than money would be the main determinants for their happiness levels. Beyond the point of providing food, shelter and safety, increase in wealth does little to improve people well-being and happiness (Kasser, 47). Such things include quality time spent with close members of the family, good health, living a purposeful life-for instance giving back to the community through charitable ventures amongst others.
The correlation between money and happiness can also depend on the culture a person subscribes to. Individuals cultures differ in their identification of what really equates to happiness. In an empirical test between Taiwanese kids and American kids, this was sufficiently proven. The kids were shown two different smiley faces. An excited mouth wide open smiley face and a calm simple grin smiley face. When asked which smiley face denoted a happier character, the Taiwanese kids chose the calm one whilst the American kids chose the excited face. Then they were told to choose between splashing into the swimming pool and simply floating in an inner tube. The Taiwanese kids chose the calm floating in an inner tube as a happier activity while the American kids chose splashing into the pool as the happier activity (Lyubomirski, 22). It thus goes to show that happiness can also be dependent upon the culture one comes from.
In Taiwan happiness is attained through calm activities that bring tranquility. In America on the other hand, exciting and thrilling activities, are the measure for happiness (Lyubomirski, 22). We may live within a society that programs us into thinking that the major goal is to amass as much wealth as possible; we generally equate happiness to money in such societies. On the other hand, we may live within societies that push for a more holistic pursuit for happiness such as the general welfare of the whole community and a sense of oneness. In such societies, people will generally not equate money to happiness.
A good example would be comparisons between communist and capitalist nations. In the 19th century, communism sprung from Russia. This was as a result of the commoners desire to achieve political and social equity. While capitalist nations ideologies were push for free enterprise, the communist nations did not allow for free enterprise. There was government interference in private business and property wasnt privately owned but rather owned by the state. Another characteristic of communist nations was that it was a classless society and wealth evenly distributed. The pursuit of happiness in such a society wouldnt therefore be realized through the accumulation of money unlike in the capitalist societies where free enterprise was encouraged and there were class distinctions thus more money meant moving from a lower class to a higher class. Money was central in measuring the happiness level of individuals. Therefore, persons in capitalist societies would generally equate more money to more happiness. Their counterparts in communist societies would on the other hand relate happiness to general satisfaction and welfare of the whole community.
Equating money to happiness would also bring issue of relativity and subjective comparisons with others rather than objective pursuit of happiness. A classic example would be a hypothetical study in two different neighborhoods. A rich neighborhood within which there are different levels of affluence and a poor neighborhood whereby the levels of poverty are also stratified. In the affluent neighborhoods, the super-rich will be expected to be happier than the moderately rich, likewise in the poor neighborhoods; the less poor will be expected to be happy relative to their poorer counterparts. However, if the moderately rich in the affluent neighborhood and those less poverty stricken from the poor neighborhoods moved to the same neighborhood, the hitherto deemed unhappy moderately rich would now be happier than the less poor from the poor neighborhoods who were deemed happy. Such relativity between the levels of wealth goes to show that money cannot be used as an objective measure of happiness levels between individuals (Rutt, 1-34).
Studies have also shown that holistic aspirations rather than pure material accumulations bring individuals happiness. Different individuals have different things they weigh as the most important and prioritize them when in pursuit of happiness. For instance, a critically sick person would value health more than wealth in their measure for happiness levels. A young person will value excitement and entertainment more whilst an old person would attach happiness to family and quality time spent with them. Aspiration is seen as a more reasonable measure for happiness since even in the acquisition for wealth, one does so in order to acquire other things. The satisfaction doesnt come with mere accumulation of wealth but rather with what the money can buy.
Happiness as a national policy also proves that happiness levels cannot be entirely measured from wealth perspective. Within technocratic societies the world over, the main target is to boost the nations gross income. In contrast, the Bhutan society is solely focused and dedicated to improving the nations GDH (Gross National Happiness). The belief is rooted in four pillars namely, equitable distribution of resources, conserving the environment, good governance and cultural preservations. Such is seen as a more holistic measure of happiness since it tends to take care of all members of the society.
Whereas technocratic societys pursuit to boost the national income does not show how the wealth is distributed, the Bhutan society puts more credence on how the wealth is equitably distributed amongst all members of the society. Conservation of the environment is also important. A wealthy nation on the other hand is constantly faced by environmental hazards due to pursuit for material wealth at the expense of conserving the environment. Cultural preservation in turn gives the people a sense of national pride and identity thus increasing their level of national happiness.
Conclusively, money only equates to happiness up to a certain level beyond which individuals should seek for a more holistic and subjective measure for happiness. Helping others, spending quality time with family or friends and earning respect amongst members of ones society are a more holistic measure for happiness rather than just using money as the yardstick (Liu and Aaker, 543557).
Kasser, Tim. The High Price of Materialism. MIT Press.2002. Print.
Liu, W., & Aaker, J. The happiness of giving: Think time-ask effect. Journal of Consumer Research, 543557.2008. Print
Rutt, V. Is Happiness Relative? Social Indicators Research, 1-34. 1991.Print.
Ryan, R., & Deci, E. On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 141166. 2001. Print. BIBLIOGRAPHY Lyubomirsky, Sonia. The How of Happiness. New York Press, 2008. Print.
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