Money and happiness – the debate continues

Money and happiness – the debate continues

Money seen as key to happiness, study finds

Dewi Cooke

January 17, 2008

CAN money buy happiness? It’s an oft-debated question and research has revealed that most Australians truly do believe that more money would give them a greater sense of wellbeing.

Women on low-incomes are most likely to harbour “unrealistic optimism” about money and its power for change.

Results from Australian Unity’s Wellbeing Index survey of 2000 Australians show that low-paid women are more likely than men to think that a doubling of their household income would increase their levels of happiness.

Report author and Deakin University researcher Bob Cummins said this belief left many women vulnerable to the temptations of get-rich-quick schemes and disreputable operators promising easy money.

“Many more of our females are full-time family care givers and what this means is they don’t have the sense of control over their finances that men have, and when people are in those circumstances they tend to think that when they have more of something it gives them more control,” he said.

But the survey found that although women on lower incomes (under $15,000) tended to overestimate the impact more money could bring, more than half of both men and women believed more money would bring them greater happiness.

For people aged 66 years and over, an increase in wealth was viewed as a negative. Divorced people of all ages, however, were most likely to believe in the power of wealth.

“I think this is all part of our genetic programming,” Professor Cummins said. “We try to get more of everything that we possibly can – and this includes food, this includes wealth, it includes the amount of territory we can control. We don’t really have a very good off-button for this stuff. We’re very good at thinking that we need more ê¢__‘Ô_ but we don’t get to a point very easily where we can sit back and say ‘that’s enough’.”