Can Money Buy Happiness?

Are you happy? How much money do you make? Would you be happier if you made more money? Does money really make people happy?

Happiness is, for our purposes, an overall feeling of satisfaction with ones situation and that life is good. Unhappiness can be defined as a sense of discontent with ones life and a feeling that there is a need for change.

In the last fifty years, the average income of Americans has increased. People have gotten better homes, more clothes, longer holidays and over all better health, and in direct correlation with that, surveys show that the average American’s level of happiness has steadily decreased. (Layard 25) In other words as society has gotten richer, they are also growing unhappier.

So can you really buy happiness? Kevin Maney, author of “Money can\'t buy happiness, but happiness may buy money” states "The lack of material resources contributes to unhappiness, but an increase does not contribute to happiness." (Maney 3b)

According to Richard Layard’s research, 41 percent of people in the top quarter incomes are reportedly very happy, compared to only 26 percent of those in the bottom quarter of incomes. But what standards are we looking at here?

A term known in the psychological world as habituation plays a big role here. Habituation is when people adjust to good things and to bad things. So whenever things get better around you, that’s what you come to know as the norm, and as your standards for normal increase, so do your standards for doing badly and doing great. We tend to judge a lot of our happiness by what people around us have and how what we have compares.

You will probably compare your wages with people close to you; such as your neighbors or your siblings. You wouldn’t compare your wages with President Bush for example because he is not your peer or similar to you.

For instance, it has been found that if your spouse makes more than you, the less satisfied you will probably be with your own wages. In addition, if your sister’s husband makes more than yours does, you would probably be more likely to seek employment. (Layard 25) “For example, if you expect sex to be great and it\'s not, you might feel down even though you got to have sex. If you expect a night of monkish chastity and get one good tonsil-rocking kiss, you might be ecstatic. It\'s all relative.” (Maney 3b)

A survey done by London University’s Institute of Education show that as many as 29 percent of women age thirty in the year 2000 reported suffering trouble with nerves, feeling low, depressed or sad. A similar survey done among women age thirty-six in 1982 showed just sixteen percent with these same feelings. (Layard 25) Probably because women feel more pressured to compete and keep up with men as opposed to the past.

So clearly, money alone cannot buy happiness. Someone’s happiness is determined by many things.

Richard Layard finds that statistically married people are happier than single people are. So are couples with children as opposed to adults that chose never to have children. Senior citizens with pets are reportedly happier and live longer than those without pets. Even actors who won Oscars report being happier and, on average live four years longer than the actors that were just nominated for an Oscar. (Layard 25)

Carol Hyman, author of “Can Money Buy Happiness” remarks “In fact, employees who are primarily motivated by the love of their work become less happy the more money they make.”(Hyman)

Therefore, we can conclude that there are many factors that contribute to ones happiness and there is no one certain way to achieve it; certainly not money.

Works Cited

Layard, Richard. “The Secrets of Happiness. New Statesman

132 (2003): 25-29.

Maney, Kevin. “Money Can’t Buy Happiness, But happiness May Buy Money” USA Today 10 March 2004:03b

Hyman, Carol. “Can Money Buy Happiness?” UC Berkeley News

: 23 pars. 16 June 2003