Money doesn't buy happiness over long term: global study

08:52, December 14, 2010      

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Raising a country from poverty to affluence doesn't necessarily make the nation's population happier, according to a new study of 54 countries worldwide.

The results apply to developed and developing countries worldwide, said study researcher Richard Easterlin, a professor of economics at the University of Southern California.

"Happiness doesn't increase with the rate of economic growth even in less-developed countries or transitional countries," Easterlin said in remarks published by on Monday.

"We already know that to be true of developed countries, but now it's been extended to countries of lower levels of income."

The researchers collected happiness data between 10 and 34 years from 17 Latin American countries, 17 developed countries, 11 Eastern European countries transitioning from socialism to capitalism and nine-less developed countries, according to the report.

They found no relationship between economic growth and happiness in any case.

Even in a country like China, where per capita income has doubled in 10 years, happiness levels haven't budged, the report quoted the researchers as saying.

South Korea and Chile have shown similarly astronomical economic growth with no increase in satisfaction.

"With incomes rising so rapidly in these three different countries, it seems extraordinary that there are no surveys that register the marked improvement in subjective well-being that mainstream economists and policy makers worldwide would expect to find," the researchers wrote.

"If you look across countries and compare happiness and GDP ( gross domestic product) per capita, you find that the higher the country's income, the more likely it is to be happier," Easterlin said. "So the expectation based on point-in-time data is if income goes up, then happiness will go up. The paradox is, when you look at change over time, that doesn't happen."

The paradox seems impossible on the surface, but there's good reason happiness and income could be linked in the short-term and not over many years, according to Easterlin.

As people's incomes rise, so do their aspirations. When incomes fall, he said, aspirations don't, he said, adding that no one wants to give up the standard of living they've grown accustomed to.

"The higher your income goes up the more your aspiration goes up," he said. "Over time, the change in aspirations negates the effect of changing income."

"Economic growth may not be the way you get happier," he noted. "There are other avenues that may produce more happiness."

Source: Xinhua

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