Happiness-Money Connection: Halo Effect of Happy Mood? Part 1

Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman

“(More) Money can’t buy (more) happiness” has been demonstrated in a research study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Nobel Prize winner and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, with Angus Deaton.

They analyzed more than 450,000 responses to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a daily survey of 1,000 US residents conducted by the Gallup Organization, and distinguished two elements of “subjective well-being” or happiness:

  • Emotional well-being – Frequency and intensity of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection,leading to pleasant or unpleasant quality of life, measured by Cantril’s Self-Anchoring Scale of yesterday’s emotional experiences
  • Life evaluation – Subjective assessment of one’s life.

They found that as emotional well-being rises with income up to about $75,000 in 2010 US dollars, then does not continue increasing with higher income levels.
In addition, daily emotions were predicted by health status, care giving, loneliness, and smoking.

Life evaluation increased as income and education increased, and the study confirmed that low income exacerbates the emotional pain associated with divorce, ill health, and being alone.

Michael Norton

Michael Norton

In fact, Michael Norton of Harvard Business School found that volunteers’ happiness increased with more money only when they spent money on others.

Replicated in Canada, Uganda, Rwanda, and other countries, his research found that happiness increases when people:

  • Select experiences over things
  • Spend money on others, regardless of the amount of money spent

 He concluded that money can buy happiness when it’s spent on other people and experiences in Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending … a worthwhile reminder in this season of gift-giving.
Norton’s TED talk

British researchers investigated longitudinal connections between happiness and money, and found that people who express more positive emotions as teenagers have more positive life outcomes as adults, including higher education and income.

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve of University College London and Andrew Oswald of

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve

University of Warwick  analyzed Carolina Population Center’s National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (“Add Health”) profiles of more than 10,000 Americans at ages 16, 18 and 22 and  their annual incomes at age 29.

De Neve and Oswald controlled for education level, IQ, height and self-esteem, all known to contribute to financial success.

Reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they found that those who express more positive emotions in their teen years, reported greater life satisfaction and optimism as young adults, were more likely to earn a university degree, secure employment, advance to higher-level roles, and have higher incomes by age 29.

The survey assessed life satisfaction on a 5-point scale, and found that an increase of 1-point at age 22 made translated to a $2,000 difference in later income measured in in 2012 US dollars, and the later income difference between the happiest and unhappiest participants was $8,000 by the same measure.

Andrew Oswald

Andrew Oswald

DeNeve and Oswald validated the finding by comparing about 3,000 sibling pairs who shared the same parents and socioeconomic status.
They found that the happier siblings also had more positive emotions and life evaluation than less-happy participants.

One explanation of these findings is that observers generalize positive impressions of people who display more positive emotions in a “halo effect”, so these happier individuals are seen as more likeable, competent and attractive, and are offered more opportunities for education, employment, and social relationships.

These findings suggest the importance of increasing the “Emotional Intelligence” competencies of emotional self-regulation.
See The Happiness-Money Connection: Halo Effect of Happy Mood?Part 2 for research-based recommendations on developing happiness and well-being.

-*How do you view the connection between happiness and money?

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2 thoughts on “Happiness-Money Connection: Halo Effect of Happy Mood? Part 1

  1. Pingback: The Halo Effect « Illuminutti

  2. Pingback: Loneliness, Happiness Affect Gene Expression, Health | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

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