A recent survey conducted around the world, involved more than 136,000 people in 132 countries asked questions about income and happiness, and included questions about happiness and income. The results indicate that while life satisfaction usually rises with income, positive feelings don’t necessarily follow.
The results of the first Gallup World Poll, appear in the July, 2010 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
“The public always wonders: Does money make you happy?” said University of Illinois professor emeritus of psychology Ed Diener, a senior scientist with the Gallup Organization. “This study shows that it all depends on how you define happiness, because if you look at life satisfaction, how you evaluate your life as a whole, you see a pretty strong correlation around the world between income and happiness,” he said. “On the other hand it’s pretty shocking how small the correlation is with positive feelings and enjoying yourself.”
The countries surveyed represent about 96 percent of the world’s population, the researchers report, and reflect the diversity of cultural, economic and political realities around the globe.
The survey was conducted in 2005 and 2006. The Gallup World Poll conducted surveys on a wide range of subjects in a representative sample of people from 132 countries from 2005 to 2006. The poll used telephone surveys in more affluent areas, and door-to-door interviews in rural or less-developed regions.
This “first representative sample of planet earth,” the authors wrote, “was used to explore the reasons why ‘happiness’ is associated with higher income.” The researchers were able to look at a long list of attributes of respondents, including their income and standard of living, whether their basic needs for food and shelter were met, what kinds of conveniences they owned and whether they felt their psychological needs were satisfied.
The surveys included a global life evaluation, which asked respondents to rate their lives on a scale that ranged from zero (worst possible life) to 10 (best possible life). Participants also answered questions about positive or negative emotions experienced the previous day. And the poll asked respondents whether they felt respected, whether they had family and friends they could count on in an emergency, and how free they felt to choose their daily activities, learn new things or do “what one does best.”
In keeping with the findings of preceding research on emotional well-being, this analysis determined that life evaluation, or life satisfaction, increases with national and personal income. But positive feelings, have a greater association with other factors including, feeling respected, having social support and autonomy and working at a fulfilling job. It does increase slightly as incomes rise.
This is the first “happiness” study of the world to differentiate between life satisfaction, the philosophical belief that your life is going well, and the day-to-day positive or negative feelings that one experiences, Diener said.
“Everybody has been looking at just life satisfaction and income,” he said. “And while it is true that getting richer will make you more satisfied with your life, it may not have the big impact we thought on enjoying life.”