The money, job, marriage myth: are you happy yet?

Paul Dolan in The Guardian:

According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), which has been studying the happiness levels of a sample of 200,000 people each year from 2011, about 1% of us are miserable. This would scale up to about half a million Britons. Earning less than £400 per week (or about £20,000 a year) is one of the factors that increases the chances of being in the most miserable 1%. Above £400 per week, the law of diminishing marginal returns kicks in. Once your basic needs are satisfied, your desire for ever-increasing amounts of money generates ever-decreasing returns of happiness. Likewise, the most recent American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which allows analysts to estimate levels of happiness associated with a range of daily activities, showed that happiness goes up with increases in income at the lower end of the scale, but then it falls with higher incomes. Contrary to what most of us might predict, those earning over $100K are no happier than those with incomes of less than $25K. Those with the highest incomes report the least sense of purpose in their experiences. Perhaps “having it all” makes what we do feel less meaningful.

Data suggest that being rich can lead to time and attention being directed towards activities that fuel the attainment of more wealth, such as longer working hours and longer commutes, and away from activities that generate more happiness, such as time outside and time with family and friends. This discrepancy between the big effect on happiness that we imagine increased wealth should bring and the small effect we experience goes a long way towards explaining the narrative trap of reaching for wealth. But most people, including those on incomes above £50,000, truly believe misery would continue to fall with higher income above this point. And most people, irrespective of income, would continue to reach for more long after they have earned their 50 grand. This is the addiction problem.

If you are not struggling to make ends meet, I propose that you rein in the social narrative that encourages you to endlessly pursue more money. Invest your time and effort into doing all you can to ensure that those who are struggling are provided with the living conditions, wages and financial support that will help them to cover the costs of their living expenses. (Helping other people is great for our own happiness.)

More here.

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