Love of Money Can’t Buy Happiness
The relationship between happiness and income is complicated. Many believe that more money will lead to happier lives, while others believe that more money translates to more problems. In Socius, Naoki Sudo explores how attitudes about money are the driving force behind individual happiness. He works to uncover why individual happiness seems to be tied to income, while a wealthy society like Japan tends to be less happy overall.
The author used a Japanese national survey to analyze the relationship between individual happiness and income. He then developed a computer simulation which uncovered two dominant and opposing attitudes about money. One attitude could be classified as materialistic and the other as anti-materialistic. He found that those who were materialistic were much more likely to tie ideas of happiness to income. Among this group of people, there was a high correlation between income and level of happiness. Among those who were anti-materialistic, there was a much weaker association between income and happiness. He determined there were many more materialistic-minded people within Japanese society than anti-materialistic.
Sudo then applied computer simulations to look at overall happiness in Japan. He found if anti-materialism was reduced, happiness on average goes down. These findings are puzzling, considering that decreasing the high association between income and happiness among those who are materialistic should increase overall happiness. Sudo says people dominated by materialistic values are more likely to incorporate income as a primary criterion of happiness and will seek increased income. Therefore, average incomes in the society will rise, and the association between income and happiness will become stronger. However, he argues it will then become difficult for people to meet their criteria for happiness because materialistic values raise the level of income the group expects. For this reason, Sudo concludes that materialistic values explain the paradox between income and happiness.