Sunday, July 02, 2006

Princeton University - Link between income and happiness is mainly an illusion

Despite the weak relationship between income and global life satisfaction or experienced happiness, many people are highly motivated to increase their income," the study said. "In some cases, this focusing illusion may lead to a misallocation of time, from accepting lengthy commutes (which are among the worst moments of the day) to sacrificing time spent socializing (which are among the best moments of the day).

This study shows what I've always suspected: that Americans have been doped into accepting ridiculous work conditions (60-80 hour weeks) in exchange for a marginally higher income than the rest of the industrialized countries, all of whom get at least 5 weeks a year to spend with their friends and family. Even with the meager vacation time they get, Americans don't usually take them. I've had former colleagues brag that they took their sabbatical and started a job at another company so they got 2 salaries at once for 5 or 6 weeks.

I remember at a gathering of friends who asked me how much I would think I'd need to not worry about work again. I answered with a figure well in excess of what most Americans would see in their lifetime, but my friends expressed amazement that I would be satisfied with so little! Granted these were Google old-timers who would turn out to be incredibly wealthy, but all it showed me was that no matter how much money you have, all that does is to raise your standards and tell you that you don't have enough.

But happiness can't be bought, and this study definitely illustrates that the impact of extra money on happiness is highly exaggerated.
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