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It Must Be True When Economists Say Money Can't Buy Happiness

They say money can’t buy happiness. In this case, “they” is a team of researchers from the London School of Economics.

The authors of a brand new study say that achieving happiness is all about developing good mental health and positive relationships; moreover, they write that money and material wealth have very little impact on overall human happiness levels and we must therefore advocate for “a new focus for public policy: not ‘wealth creation’ but ‘wellbeing creation.’ ”

Researchers came to this conclusion by looking at survey data from the US, Australia, the UK and Germany and analyzing the responses from more than 200,000 people about what lifestyle aspects most affected their happiness.

The researchers found that mental health has by-and-large the greatest influence on happiness, with depression and anxiety being responsible for roughly 20 percent of the variation in life satisfaction.

They also discovered that having a romantic partner had a significant impact on human happiness, but that income accounted for less than two percent of the overall variance.

The researchers then calculated that eliminating depression and anxiety would be four times more effective at putting an end to human sadness than increasing all incomes so that was nobody was earning below the 20th percentile of the national average.

While squashing these mental health disorders in one fell swoop is (obviously) not possible, the researchers found that treating depression and anxiety costs 18 times less than raising people above the poverty line.

In their report, the researchers also note the influence of childhood experiences in adult happiness. They discovered that emotional wellbeing as a child was significantly more important than financial resources, and became the greatest influence on a person’s wellbeing in later years.

The full results of the study will be presented later this month at a conference. The authors say they hope the study will “usher in another revolution – where policymaking at last aims at what really matters: the happiness of the people.”  

h/t IFLScience.


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