Why doesn't money bring happiness?

Study shows: Money can only make you happy if there is one condition

It is a question that divides opinions: does money actually make you happy or not? Of course, the importance given to finances in life varies from person to person. Nevertheless, numerous studies repeatedly deal with the topic of how important money really is for subjectively perceived happiness. One of them is the study entitled “Moral transgressions corrupt neural representations of value” by M. Crockett, J. Siegel, Z. Kurth-Nelson, P. Dayan and R. Dolan. With an amazing result ...

1. The basic problem with happiness: how can it be measured?
2. So does money make you happy? The answer is: It depends ...
3. If not the love of money - what makes you happy instead?
4. Loneliness makes you unhappy and can even be fatal
5. So what conclusion do the studies allow?

The basic problem with happiness: how can it be measured?

All empirical studies on happiness face the same problem: How can such a subjective feeling as happiness be objectively measured and thus compared? The approach of different scientists to the topic is correspondingly different. While some rely on questionnaires or personal conversations and simply ask the test subjects about their "level of happiness" or an individual assessment, the researchers in the study "Moral transgressions corrupt neural representations of value" rely on a different method: measuring the brain waves for the Area responsible for happiness - the so-called neural reward system.

So does money make you happy? The answer is: It depends ...

The researchers came to an amazing result during their measurements: The question of whether happiness can be bought with money simply cannot be answered across the board. It depends on how the money was made. The relationship between money and happiness therefore depends less on the individual and his or her position on material things in life than on the way in which people generate their money. Sounds complicated? Is not it! In a nutshell, this knowledge means nothing else than:

If you earn your money honestly and conscientiously, it makes you happy. However, those who generate it through exploitation, manipulation, lies or in some other morally reprehensible way, their reward system reacts less strongly to the money. Accordingly, it makes him less happy.

Ultimately, if you make your money with a guilty conscience, morals thwart your plans. Honestly earned money, on the other hand, actually makes you happy - even if only for a short time and unfortunately not permanently.

If not the love of money - what makes you happy instead?

Since money only appeals to the short-term reward system in the brain, it does cause a short-term exhilaration, but does not lead to permanent inner satisfaction. Researchers at the renowned Harvard University have instead focused on this "long-term happiness" and have been investigating the question as part of their "Grant Study" and "Glueck Study" for over 75 years and now in the second generation: What really makes people happy? To this end, they accompany the 724 test persons and their children throughout their lives over many decades. At regular intervals they are asked about their life situation and their "happiness level". The focus is on a wide variety of areas of life:

  • Finances
  • health
  • Social relationships
  • job
  • and much more m.

Over the decades, the researchers at Harvard University have come to the same conclusion over and over again: It is not money that makes people happy. Surprisingly, even health is less important than many of you might think. Instead, one factor emerges by far which is obviously most important for a person's personally perceived happiness or unhappiness: social relationships.

Loneliness makes you unhappy and can even be fatal

The empirical studies have shown that people are happier, the better the quality of their social relationships. So it doesn't depend on the quantity. You don't need a lot of friends or an extended family for more happiness in life. Instead, a few really deep social relationships are enough for a happy life. So you don't need more than a handful of people who accept and love you for who you are and give you the feeling that you are not alone in life crises.

Reading tip: Remote Work: Telework promotes loneliness - and can be fatal

The other way around, poverty is no guarantee for an unhappy life, but loneliness. Those who are lonely but rich may experience the brief exhilaration of money over and over again, but never the lasting inner satisfaction of true happiness. However, loneliness does not only end in misfortune, but in extreme cases even fatally. Lonely people have a 26 to 32 percent higher mortality rate - this is comparable to the risk of death from being overweight or smoking.

So what conclusion do the studies allow?

It is time to draw a conclusion: Good quality social relationships make you happiest in the long term. However, money can also make you happy for a short time by stimulating the neural reward system. However, this is only the case - or to a greater extent - if the money was earned conscientiously. Viewed positively, your morals ensure that you do not want to earn money at the expense of other people, for example through exploitation, manipulation or theft. However, this mechanism only works if you have a “conscience” which is not or only partially developed in the case of some personality disorders. Therefore, it is mainly narcissists and psychopaths who promise themselves great happiness through money. In the following article, we will explain why this plan does not work either:

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So far, there is probably no more precise answer to the question of whether money makes you happy. It simply depends on various factors. What is certain, however, is that money alone does not lead to lasting happiness - and poverty does not necessarily lead to unhappiness.

Or what do you think? How do you see happiness related to money and morals? What experiences have you ever had with exploitation or money at the expense of a guilty conscience? How important are finances in your life? And what are the social relationships? Feel free to share your thoughts on the topic with us in the comments!

Photo credit: Talulla / Shutterstock.com


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