34 Rich in Wealth or Happiness?

Based on Research by Tim Kasser, Ph.D, Edward Diener Ph.D, and David Myers, Ph.D. American Psychological Association, adapted by Juanita N. Baker, ph.D.

Advertisements bombard us with the message implying that money can buy our happiness.  It is hard to resist getting caught up in the latest fad, digital gadget, fashion, or car.

Research on how happiness relates to material wealth by psychologists Drs. Edward Diener and David Myers clearly documents that people are happier if they live in wealthy rather than poor nations. However, once individuals have enough money to pay for their basic needs of food, shelter, etc., money does relatively little to improve happiness. Further increases in national economic growth or personal income have little effect on changes in the personal happiness of citizens.

Psychological research shows that people who “buy into” the messages of consumerism report lower personal well-being.  According to research by psychologist Tim Kasser, people who find money, image, and popularity important often feel less satisfied with life.  They have fewer pleasant emotions and are more prone to negative ones.  In addition to reducing personal happiness, research suggests that it may also promote behaviors that hurt people’s social relationships. This appears to ring true across cultures.

So striving for what is meaningful will more likely lead us to a fulfilled life.

Cited Research

American Psychological Association explains more, see: http://www.apa.org/research/action/rich.aspx American Psychological Association, March 26, 2004

Diener, E., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2002). Will money increase subjective well-being? Social Indicators Research, Vol. 57, pp. 119-169.

Kasser, T. (2002). The High Price of Materialism. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Kasser, T, & Ryan, R. M. (1993). A dark side of the American dream: Correlates of financial success as a central life aspiration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 410-422.

Myers, D. (2000). The funds, friends, and faith of happy people. American Psychologist, Vol. 55, pp. 56-67.

Additional Sources

Elgin, D. (1993). Voluntary Simplicity. New York: Morrow.

Levin, D., & Linn, S. (2004). The commercialization of childhood: Understanding the problem and finding solutions. In T. Kasser & A. D. Kanner (Eds.), Psychology and Consumer Culture: The struggle for a good life in a materialistic world (pp. 213-232). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Schor, J. (1992). The overworked American: The unexpected decline of leisure. New York: Basic Books.

What makes people the happiest? Researchers say it’s not money or popularity (APA press release, 2/11/2001, http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2001/02/needs.aspx)

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