Does money buy you happiness? No, it's the other way round

By Philip Thornton, Economics Correspondent

26 July 2004

Money, as the Beatles observed, can't buy you love - but now it seems it does not even increase happiness, economists have found.

Happy people tended to become richer and were more likely to find love in a steady relationship - rather than the other way around.

A study of 8,000 people who were questioned repeatedly about their lives during the course of the 1990s found that even massive increases in wealth led to only minuscule increases in happiness.

People whose incomes doubled reported an increase of just 0.1 on a scale from one to 10. "It is more the case that happy people become richer than the other way round," the academics found.

They said this meant that an individual would need an 800,000 per cent pay rise to gain even one notch up the happiness ladder.

"This in itself raises the question of why people expend so much effort on obtaining more income," they said. Their report is published today in the official journal of the UK's Royal Economics Society. They said they support theview that people get trapped on a treadmill chasing goals that cease to be satisfying once reached. "Is there perhaps more to individual choice than happiness?" ask the authors, Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell of the University of Amsterdam and Paul Frijters of Australian National University

And while their research confirmed that people in steady relationships were happier - it was those who were by nature upbeat who were more likely to find a partner in the first place.

"It has been said that those with steady partners are happier, therefore steady partnerships make you happy," they said. "This neglects the real possibility that people with steady partners may have been happy before they found them and that it is indeed relatively happy people for whom it is easier to find steady partners."

Source: Independent