Once we escape the trap of poverty, levels of wealth have an extremely modest impact on levels of happiness, especially in developed countries. Even worse, it appears that the richest nation in history – 21st century America – is slowly getting less pleased with life. (Or as the economists behind this recent analysis concluded: “In the United States, the [psychological] well-being of successive birth-cohorts has gradually fallen through time.”)
Needless to say, this data contradicts one of the central assumptions of modern society, which is that more money equals more pleasure. That’s why we work hard, fret about the stock market and save up for that expensive dinner/w
atch/phone/car/condo. We’ve been led to believe that dollars are delight in a fungible form.
But the statistical disconnect between mon
ey and happiness raises a fascinating question: Why doesn’t money make us happy? One intriguing answer comes from a new study by psychologists at the University of Liege, published in Psychological Science. […]
The Liege psychologists propose that, because
money allows us to enjoy the best things in life – we can stay at expensive hotels and eat exquisite sushi and buy the nicest gadgets – we actually decrease our ability to enjoy the mundane joys of everyday life. (Their list of such pleasures includes ”sunny days, cold beers, and chocolate bars”.) And since most
of our joys are mundane – we can’t sleep at the Ritz every night – our ability to splurge actually backfires. We try to treat ourselves, but we end up spoiling ourselves.