Study reveals more money may not make you happier
Filed under: News
Far from rejoicing when they get a pay rise, those on high salaries who are neurotic can easily view a raise as a failure. Neurotic people tend to enjoy income less if they are richer, the findings show. They chime with other studies that show wealth doesn't necessarily bring happiness.
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In a working paper, economist Dr Eugenio Proto, from the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy at the University of Warwick, looked at how personality traits can affect the way we feel about our income in terms of levels of life satisfaction.
He found evidence suggesting that neurotic people can view a pay rise or an increase in income as a failure if it is not as much as they expected.
Neuroticism is a tendency to experience negative emotional states. People with high levels of neuroticism have higher sensitivity to anger, hostility, or depression.
Dr Proto, who co-authored the paper with Aldo Rustichini from the University of Minnesota, said people who are on a high salary and have high levels of neuroticism are more likely to see a pay rise as a failure.
He said: "Someone who has high levels of neuroticism will see an income increase as a measure of success. When they are on a lower income, a pay increase does satisfy them because they see that as an achievement. However, if they are already on a higher income they may not think the pay increase is as much as they were expecting. So they see this as a partial failure and it lowers their life satisfaction."
This would explain why some bankers throw their toys out of the pram when they get their bonuses - while mere mortals like us have never had a bonus in their life.
Dr Proto added: "These results suggest that we see money more as a device to measure our successes or failures rather than as a means to achieve more comfort."
An older study showed that while the income per capita in the US between 1974 and 2004 almost doubled, the average level of happiness showed no appreciable trend upwards. This puzzling ﬁnding, called the Easterlin Paradox after its author, has been shown to hold also for European countries.
And a more recent UN report, which ranked countries according to levels of happiness, also suggested that money can't buy you happiness. The report identified the key factors to a nation's happiness as "a high degree of social equality, trust and quality of governance". Inequality is generally thought to damage societies. Scandinavian countries Denmark, Finland and Norway came top, while the UK barely scraped the top 20, coming in at number 18 below the United Arab Emirates and just above Venezuela.
Obviously, having so little money that you can't pay for food or medicine - a situation that many Greeks now find themselves in - doesn't make you happy either.