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Money can buy happiness for most individuals, new study finds

By NICK GARCIA Published Mar 10, 2023 3:48 pm Updated Mar 10, 2023 5:16 pm

"Money can't buy happiness" may be a thing of the past. A new study in the United States found that happiness, for most individuals, increases with higher pay.

In a joint study published in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last March 1, researchers Daniel Kahneman and Matthew Killingsworth found that well-being rises with income.

Through "Income and emotional well-being: A conflict resolved," they reanalyzed their previous conflicting studies.

In 2010, Kahneman and colleague Angus Deaton found that happiness levels increase with higher annual income, but stop upon reaching between $60,000 and $90,000 (P3.3 million and P4.9 million).

But Killingsworth, in his 2021 study, found that there's no threshold; happiness continues to increase beyond earning $200,000 (P11 million) yearly.

Two years later, the two researchers in a so-called "adversarial collaboration" came up with a new conclusion.

Kahneman and Killingsworth surveyed 33,391 employed American residents, aged 18 to 65, who earn at least $10,000 (P551,000) annually. About 90% of them have incomes below $200,000 (P11 million).

Researchers noted they lacked substantial data for those earning $500,000 (P27.5 million) and up.

Using an app called Track Your Happiness, respondents were asked several questions about their feelings during random times of the day.

Kahneman and Killingsworth found that generally speaking, respondents become happier the higher money they earn.

But for 20% of respondents who are least happy, their happiness levels no longer improve beyond an annual income of $100,000 (P5.5 million).

The remaining 80% of them, meanwhile, still gain more happiness levels beyond that amount.

"In the simplest terms, this suggests that for most people, larger incomes are associated with greater happiness," Killingworth wrote, adding that if someone is "rich and miserable," more money won't help.

"For everyone else, more money was associated with higher happiness to somewhat varying degrees," he said.