The relationship between income and happiness is complicated. And a new study published in the journal Emotion adds an interesting new layer to the research, suggesting that there’s a surprising correlation between your wealth and the types of happiness you experience.

To give you some background, there are seven distinct emotions that make up happiness: amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, enthusiasm, love and pride. Paul Piff, PhD, of the University of California, Irvine, along with a team of researchers, asked a nationally representative sample of 1,519 people a series of questions that measured their tendency to experience each of those emotions. The results suggest some major differences in happiness between people at the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum and those at the lower end – but not the differences you might suspect.

Wealthier people were more likely to experience emotions that centered on themselves, like amusement, contentment, and pride, while individuals at the lower end of the income spectrum were more likely to experience emotions related to other people, like compassion and love. Lower-income individuals were also more likely to feel awe and appreciation for their surroundings.

The study proved correlation, not causation, meaning that the researchers can’t say for sure that having more money leads you to experience more self-focused happiness. But Piff asserted in the study’s press release that “your wealth predisposes you to different kinds of happiness.”

As for why this might be the case, Piff notes that higher-income individuals may have a greater desire for independence and self-sufficiency, while emotions that relate to human connectedness may help alleviate the stress and difficulties that comes with being tight on money. In the press release, he said, “wealth doesn’t guarantee you happiness, but it may predispose you to experiencing different forms of it — for example, whether you delight in yourself versus in your friends and relationships.”

Read the full article on Science Daily


  • Alexandra Hayes

    Content Director, Product & Brand, at Thrive

    Alexandra Hayes is a Content Director, Product & Brand, at Thrive. Prior to joining Thrive, she was a middle school reading teacher in Canarsie, Brooklyn.