News / Vancouver

Can money buy you happiness?

Money can’t buy happiness, but it could stave off sadness.

That’s the latest finding from psychology researchers at the University of B.C. who studied the relationship between income and emotions, concluding that, while people can’t bank on bigger paycheques to make them happy, it could shield them against sadness.

“Getting a high income won’t necessarily make you happier as you go about your day, but it might actually make you less sad,” lead researcher Kostadin Kushlev told Metro. “Income can buffer us against some of these things that might cause more sadness in our lives but it doesn’t necessarily provide the things necessary to increase our happiness.”

If that sounds contradictory, Kushlev said it’s because of a common misconception about the relationship between happiness and sadness. The two emotions are not diametric opposites, meaning that when happiness increases, sadness doesn’t automatically decrease, he said.

For the study, the researchers analyzed U.S. census data from 2010 that surveyed 12,291 people on their levels of happiness and income. Comparing each person’s happiness with their income, they found that higher income is associated with less daily sadness but has no effect on daily happiness.

The study was published recently in the journal Social Psychology & Personality Science.

Although previous research has also shown income doesn’t have a strong link to happiness, Kushlev said the researchers were surprised to see a correlation between wealth and lower levels of sadness.

That may be due to the comforting feeling that a pocketful of cash can offer when a crisis arises, he said.

For example, coming home to discover a leak in the roof might be an easy problem to solve for a well-off person. But for someone less fortunate, they may be plagued by the problem for months, Kushlev explained.

“It’s quite striking that something that we think should make us happier isn’t really making us happier,” he said. “People who are dedicating their lives to getting richer should at least know that getting richer won’t necessarily increase their happiness on a daily basis.”