Money can buy you happiness … but the price depends on where you live

Money can buy you happiness … but the price depends on where you live


Can money really buy you happiness?

According to researchers at Purdue University in the United States, the answer is: yes!

But the issue is not black and white; The price of happiness is different in the whole world and you have to reach the right balance because if you gain too much there will be “side effects”.

The Gallup World Poll survey, led by Andrew Jebb, polled more than 1.7 million people in 164 countries .

The price of happiness in different parts of the world (in US $) Source: Jebb et al (2018)
RegionAnnual salary
GlobalUS $ 95,000
Western Europe / ScandinaviaUS $ 100,000
Eastern Europe / The BalkansUS $ 45,000
Australia / New ZealandUS $ 125,000
Southeast AsianUS $ 70,000
Eastern AsiaUS $ 110,000
Latin America / CaribbeanUS $ 35,000
North AmericaUS $ 105,000
Middle East / North AfricaUS $ 115,000
Sub-Saharan AfricaUS $ 40,000

Happiness = US $ 95,000

The researchers found that US $ 95,000 per year was the average global income that led to a ” satisfactory life assessment “.

The term “satisfactory life assessment” means the general estimate of how one is doing and is likely to be more influenced by higher goals and comparisons with others.

Copenhagen (Photo: Leonardo Patrizi)
Image caption Rich countries like Denmark have the highest salary expectations. (Photo: Leonardo Patrizi)


However, Jebb and his team observed that once that happiness threshold is reached, additional increases in income tended to be associated with lower levels of life satisfaction and less well-being.

Academics suspect that this reverse effect is triggered by some kind of anxiety about the social status that is activated after needs are met.

People can then start making social comparisons that could result in less well-being.

A child in a poor neighborhood in Latin America (Photo: RichVintage)
Image caption Latin America and the Caribbean is where the salary that brings happiness is lowest. (Photo: RichVintage)

“One thing the data shows us is that there are limits on how much money influences our well-being,” says Jebb.

“At some point, people start asking themselves: ‘How well is it going?’ and ‘How do I compare with other people?’ ”

“What we see on television and what advertisers tell us we need to indicate that there is no limit to how much money is needed to be happy,” he adds.

A woman with shopping bags and sad expression
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Expectations increased and declined according to regional realities.

It also points out the “side effects” of higher incomes.

“Higher incomes are often accompanied by greater demands for time, workload and responsibility, which could limit opportunities for positive experiences: leisure activities, for example.”

The team at Purdue University also observed that the goals of “financial happiness” differed in all regions of the world.

The most affluent areas showed higher thresholds . In Western Europe and Scandinavia, the satisfactory life assessment required an income of US $ 100,000 and in North America of US $ 105,000.

Woman with worried expression.
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption With higher incomes there are more demands, which can impact on our happiness.

But the highest “price” for happiness was found in Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) and in the Middle East, where the figures amounted to US $ 125,000 and US $ 115,000.

These levels differ radically from Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, where satisfaction is reached with US $ 35,000 .

“This pattern of results suggested that the level of satiety was related to the general wealth of the region,” says Jebb.

Copyright of the GETTY IMAGESimage
Image caption Thresholds vary according to educational level and gender.

“But it also shows how happiness is not built in the same way everywhere and how other variables also play a role.”

“It is important to see that values and not just possessions, for example, are driving welfare.”

The researchers found that the thresholds also vary according to educational level and gender , with the average “ideal income” for women of US $ 100,000, while for men worldwide it is US $ 90,000.

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