Study puts price on happiness

By Jamie Merrill

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

It is widely accepted that money can't buy you love. Now a study has found that it can buy you happiness - but only up to a point.

National happiness rises as a country's gross domestic product (GDP) per capita climbs, the University of Warwick study found.

But it tails off when the rising wealth creates higher aspirations which often lead to a sense of disappointment.

In wealthy countries this sweet spot is found at around the local equivalent of 22,100 ($44,160) a year, after which, happiness decreases as our desire for better-quality housing, a higher standard of education and consumer goods lead to increased anxiety and stress.

The paper found - as might be expected - that life satisfaction in poorer countries rises as the GDP climbs.

But once average GDP per capita reaches around 22,100, life-satisfaction levels peak and dip slightly in the richest countries.

"As countries get richer, higher levels of GDP lead to higher aspiration," said one of the report's authors, Dr Eugenio Proto.

"There is a sense of keeping up with Mr Jones next door as people see higher levels of wealth and opportunity all around them and aspire to having more.

"Any economy which gives its citizens lots of aspiration cannot truly be a bad economy, but this aspiration gap - the difference between income and our desire for things like nicer homes and consumers goods - eats away at levels of life satisfaction."

- Independent

- NZ Herald

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