Does Money Buy Happiness? No, And The Answer Of What Does Buy Happiness May Surprise You

It is often said that money can buy happiness, and as I’ve blogged in earlier articles, this is true, but only up to a basic middle class economic status. Above that, money doesn’t seem to add much happiness. (See my posts here and here.)

So what does buy happiness? We have a surprising answer from our friends across the pond, at the University of Warwick in England. A new study published online Nov. 18 in the journal Health Economics, Policy and Law surveyed thousands of people on  their levels of happiness and correlated it with external factors such as a pay raise or winning a lottery prize, and compared this to receiving psychotherapy.  Astonishingly, even to me, a psychologist, the increase in happiness from a $1329 course of therapy was so large that to equal it people had to get a pay raise of more than $41,542! That’s a ratio of 32 times! That means a dollar spent on therapy boosts happiness 32 times more than the same dollar received in a pay raise or lottery prize.

As the study author Chris Boyce, of the University of Warwick, summarized:  “Often the importance of money for improving our well-being and bringing greater happiness is vastly over-valued in our societies. The benefits of having good mental health, on the other hand, are often not fully appreciated and people do not realize the powerful effect that psychological therapy, such as non-directive counseling, can have on improving our well-being.”

Bravo,Chris! Now when patients ask me whether therapy is worth the money, I can confidently say that research suggests it might be one of the best investments you can make in yourself and your own happiness. (And it’s okay to get a raise, as long as you spend it on therapy!)

The only problem I can see with this article being published is that it may lower MY happiness, as I might get busier, perhaps earning more money, but not having time to see my own therapist!

So to answer the original question, does money buy happiness? Money doesn’t buy happiness; it buys psychotherapy, which yields 32 times more happiness than money!

Copyright © 2009-2010 Andrew Gottlieb, Ph.D.  The Psychology Lounge/TPL Productions

Link to study: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_92421.html

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Dr. Andrew Gottlieb is a clinical psychologist in Palo Alto, California. His practice serves the greater Silicon Valley area, including the towns of San Jose, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Los Altos, Menlo Park, San Carlos, Redwood City, Belmont, and San Mateo. Dr. Gottlieb specializes in treating anxiety, depression, relationship problems, OCD, and other difficulties using evidence-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a modern no-drug therapy approach that is targeted, skill-based, and proven effective by many research studies. Visit his website at CambridgeTherapy.com or watch Dr. Gottlieb on YouTube. He can be reached by phone at (650) 324-2666 and email at: Dr. Gottlieb Email.

2 thoughts on “Does Money Buy Happiness? No, And The Answer Of What Does Buy Happiness May Surprise You

  1. Hi,
    Interesting thoughts! I believe it’s not possible to make a general statement on whether money makes people more or less happy. Money comes with a whole set of new elements that may have good or bad impact on our happiness, and depending on how susceptible we are to every one of them, the conclusion will go one way or the other (i.e. different from person to person). I recently made an effort to provide a more comprehensive picture of what these ad- and disadvantages are. I invite you to have a look at Money and Happiness and tell me what you think!
    Thank you, Nick

  2. This study and its results would have been really handy when I was practicing in a psychotherapy-phobic region of the country. Actually, I was plenty busy. It’s not the patients who need this the most; it’s the HMO’s and the federal programs that pay so poorly for therapy, including Medicare. As those rates dropped, I moved more and more to self-pay, until, in the last five years, I dealt with no third-party payers at all. A little more money and a little less hassle from them would have made this retired psychotherapist very happy, indeed. In fact, I’d probably still be working. Any hope of replication of this study?

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