Psychologists Uncover New Details on How Money Influences Frequency and Intensity of Happiness
Journal search Social psychology and personality sciences provides insight into the long-held claim that money improves life satisfaction. Researchers have found consistent evidence that income affects how often a person experiences happiness, but not intensity.
The research team, led by Jon M. Jachimowicz, proposed that the link between income and happiness could be explained by how people tend to spend their free time. People with low incomes tend to spend more time on passive leisure activities, such as watching TV and relaxing, and less time participating in active leisure activities such as socializing and leisure activities.
Passive activities are expected to contribute to less happiness over time due to a phenomenon called hedonic adaptation – the tendency to get used to a positive event and quickly return to a baseline level of happiness. In contrast, habitual and intentional active leisure activities, such as exercise, should produce less intense but more frequent fits of happiness that add up to promote psychological well-being. Jachimowicz and his team therefore proposed that income is positively correlated with the frequency of happiness but not with the intensity of happiness.
An early journal study showed that 394 adults reported their positive affect – how happy, energetic, enthusiastic, relaxed, calm and satisfied they felt – three times a day for 30 days. The study authors used these responses to calculate the happiness frequency and intensity scores for each participant. In line with the researchers’ predictions, higher income predicted a greater frequency of happiness but did not predict the intensity of happiness. Additionally, income was linked to greater satisfaction with life through an increase in the frequency of happiness.
A second study among a larger sample of 1290 replicated these results using validated measures of frequency and intensity of happiness from the Multidimensional Emotions Questionnaire.
Driven by these findings, a final study was conducted to explore the theory that income affects happiness by influencing the way people spend their time. Using data from a large representative survey of Americans, the researchers analyzed the interaction between respondents’ annual income, the activities they participated in, and how happy they felt during those activities. They distinguished between active leisure (praying, socializing, hobbies, exercising or volunteering) and passive leisure (watching TV, relaxing or sleeping).
Again, income was positively related to the frequency of happiness, but not to its intensity. Notably, the study provided evidence of a way in which income improves frequency of happiness – income was related to time spent in passive activities, which in turn was associated with frequency of happiness. As the researchers predicted, those with lower incomes spent more time on passive activities like watching TV and, in turn, reported less frequent bouts of happiness.
Jachimowicz and his colleagues say these results highlight the nuanced relationship between income and happiness, suggesting that income influences how often a person experiences happiness, rather than the intensity. “Taken together,” the authors illustrate, “income can bring happiness not through more intensely happy experiences, but through more of them. “
To close this happiness gap between low-income and high-income people, researchers suggest that low-income people should be encouraged to pursue activities that are more meaningful and more likely to improve their well-being, as opposed to those with low incomes. passive activities.
The study, “Income more reliably predicts frequent happiness than intense happinessWas written by Jon M. Jachimowicz, Ruo Mo, Adam Eric Greenberg, Bertus Jeronimus and Ashley V. Whillans.