Health and Wellness

How you think about money can impact how happy you are in life, study says

Twenty20

Most of us have heard that money can't buy happiness. But the way you view wealth and materialism may have a significant effect on how satisfied and happy you are with your life, according to a new study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.

"[M]oney can be a tool to motivate you to achieve major milestones in your life, which can make you feel happier in the long run," Jenny Jiao, study author and assistant professor of marketing at Binghamton University School of Management, said in a press release.

After analyzing results from a survey of over 7,500 German adults for the study, researchers at the Binghamton University School of Management found that people's feelings about materialism tend to be nuanced. Specifically, there's a difference between "happiness materialism" and "success materialism," the researchers found.

Buying into "happiness materialism" — the belief that wealth is an indicator of a happy life — tends to be problematic because it takes "much time, energy and money away from other life domains that make an important and positive contribution to present life satisfaction," such as family, work and health, the study authors wrote.

However, researchers believe focusing on "success materialism" — the idea that wealth signifies success — enhances people's "economic motivation," or their drive to work and improve their standard of living. Thinking about success through that lens could make individuals more satisfied with their present lives and hopeful about the future.

This simple mindset shift could make a difference in the way people view success and their lives, but of course there are other variables at play. For example, while this study didn't cover how income specifically affects life satisfaction, researchers agree that it also impacts people's happiness. A 2010 study out of Princeton University found that there's a correlation between happiness and wealth, to a point of about $75,000 per year. When people make more than $75,000 a year, their happiness doesn't increase, but the lower their income is the worse they feel, the study found. 

Jiao added in the press release that, above all, it's important to keep in mind the things that bring you happiness that don't come with a price tag. "These include family, friends, your health, continual learning and new experiences," she said.

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