Can money buy happiness? A new study sheds light on this age-old question, and the answer might surprise you. Researchers from Pennsylvania State and Harvard University looked at several factors – including physical health, income, education, and marital status – to determine what was the biggest predictor of happiness. Out of a survey of over 16,000 men and women, those who rated themselves happiest also happened to be those most likely to enjoy excellent physical health.
Wealth came in a close second, but here, the factor was not so much absolute wealth as relative financial status. In other words, having money did help generate jollity, but having more (or less) than one’s peers was an even more precise predictor of how folks felt. If “keeping up with the Joneses” is what it takes to keep smiling, researchers warned this could lead to a vicious cycle “where individuals consume more and more just to maintain a constant level of happiness.”
Bottom line: Start your pursuit of happiness by taking steps to improve your diet, manage your weight and increase physical fitness – and try not to let what others have affect how you feel.
Published October 10, 2005