Does Money Buy Happiness?
Gordon D. Venturella
Recent studies reported in the Wall Street Journal show that in countries where economic levels have risen so have incidences of depression and distrust (WSJ August '04). On the other hand, few would sponsor extreme poverty as a way to achieve bliss.
The research is ambiguous, however, in determining which comes first – wealth – or happiness ?
The study reports that people who say they're happy tend to earn higher incomes than people who say they are not. Positive self-regard seems to be a factor that results in higher income. In addition, contented people are also more likely to get married and stay that way – which leads to a healthier life – which in turn leads to greater levels of happiness – which leads to – you guessed it – higher income.
The Wall Street Journal conclusion? Money may not buy happiness, but happiness can earn you more money.
Other research demonstrates that the happiest people aren't those with the most money but those with a sense of purpose – a sense they're contributing to something bigger than themselves. Most would agree, we want to contribute to something meaningful.
The research is interesting in light of this familiar verse:
You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully.
2 Corinthians 9:7 (TNLV)
Let's see if we can get this straight:
When presented with the opportunity to contribute to a worthy cause – do so generously – it's good for you. And apparently God's not the only one who loves cheerful givers – most everyone else does too.
- Giving to worthy causes that are larger than you and will outlast you creates a sense of purpose.
- A sense of purpose produces contentment and happiness.
- Happy and contented people tend to earn more money and lead healthier lives.
- People with more money have more to give away – producing – you guessed it – more happiness.