It’s very hard to decide whether money is the root of all evil or, alternatively, it does bring you happiness, or make you a better human being since it enables you to help others and give you sometimes the power to make amends when called upon. However, the popular perception in certain quarters is that money does not really make you happy. It’s a saying that’s often treated with scepticism but according to a latest study, money can’t buy you happiness!

Research into Britain’s wellbeing found that raising incomes does not necessarily result in a happier society; and eliminating poverty would only reduce misery by a mere 5 percent. The secret to happiness is instead, good mental health and enjoying good social relationships.

Researchers found that treating depression and anxiety alone would reduce misery in the UK alone by 20 percent. Explaining why raising incomes would not boost happiness levels, research teams from the LSE said the problem is we measure our earnings against those of the people around us. It means that if one person’s income is raised, another person’s income falls in relative terms, so society overall does not become happier. The report said this helps to explain why average happiness has failed to rise in Britain since records began, despite massive increases in living standards.

The study, which looks at international surveys involving 200,000 people, also found that being in a relationship has a greater impact on a person’s happiness than getting a pay rise. On a scale of 0-10, doubling a person’s income raised their happiness by under 0.2 points. In comparison, having a partner raised happiness by 0.6 points.

The report was presented at a conference at the LSE by the OECD. In it, project leader Lord Richard Layard said that ‘while income inequality explains only 1 percent of the happiness in a community, mental health accounted for around 4-5 percent. And, for the most unhappy 10 percent of the population, dubbed ‘Les Miserables’, Lord Layard said mental illness was the biggest factor.

‘When we ask what distinguishes “les miserables” from the rest, the biggest distinguishing feature is neither poverty nor unemployment, but mental illness,’ he said. ‘It explains more of the misery in the community than physical illness does.’

The report also says that boosting children’s qualifications was not a recipe for happiness. Instead, schools should introduce lessons to help improve pupils’ emotional wellbeing. It calls on government to introduce a 4 year curriculum called ‘Healthy Minds’ with schools offering one hour long lessons a week. ‘The evidence shows that the things that matter most for our happiness and for our misery are our social relationships and our mental and physical health,’ said Lord Layard. ‘This demands a new role for the state – not “wealth creation” but “well-being creation”.’ He added that: ‘The state must make tackling matters including domestic violence, alcoholism, depression, and anxiety conditions, its priority.’

Money, nevertheless, affects people in different ways. It can be a blessing or even a curse unless properly handled and used. It is certainly not closely linked to happiness, as the report has found. We tend to exaggerate its property and benefits without taking everything else into consideration, such as a psychological effect and the other burdens it brings in its wake, including the possible anxiety of its loss.


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