Can money buy you happiness? Ten years ago, scientists decided to answer the age old rhetorical question.
If you could theoretically put a price on happiness, how much would it cost? The 2010 Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School study found that it would sum up to about $75,000 a year (a little over Rs 54 lakhs today). It also found that the lower a person’s annual income falls below that benchmark, the unhappier he or she feels. But no matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don’t report any greater degree of happiness.
The 2010 study was conducted by Nobel Prize in Economics winning economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman. They analyzed the responses of 450,000 Americans polled by Gallup and Healthways in 2008 and 2009. Participants were asked how they had felt the previous day and whether they were living the best possible life for them.
Almost 11 years later, in 2021 – there’s a new study which says the figure is far far below the ‘happy’ estimates. The new study , called ‘Experienced well-being rises with income, even above $75,000 per year’ and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that “was no evidence for an experienced well-being plateau above $75,000/y, contrary to some influential past research. There was also no evidence of an income threshold at which experienced and evaluative well-being diverged, suggesting that higher incomes are associated with both feeling better day-to-day and being more satisfied with life overall.”
The new study is the work of Matt Killingsworth, a senior fellow at Wharton School for Business at the University of Pennsylvania. His study is based on 1,725,994 samples pulled from 33,391 employed adults in the United States. He collected the samples using an app he designed called Track Your Happiness.
“The way it works is that people get pinged at random moments as they go about their daily lives,” Killingsworth told VICE. “And then I ask them some questions about their experience, just before that moment, how they feel, what they’re doing, and a variety of other things.”
His results in the study concluded that, “Larger incomes were robustly associated with both greater experienced well-being and greater evaluative well-being. Moreover, the shape of the relationship between log(income) and experienced well-being was strikingly linear: There was no observed plateau in experienced well-being, and there was no obvious change in slope of experienced well-being.”
While the new study doesn’t put an exact number – it does pose the age-old question, are millionaires like the current richest man on the planet, Elon Musk happier than the rest of us?