The Science of Happiness. Register Today
   
 

How Has the Recession Affected Our Happiness?

By Jennifer Stellar | June 28, 2011 | 11 comments

A recent survey looks at the link between money and happiness during hard times.

Happiness has been one of humans’ greatest concerns since we evolved brains big enough to contemplate more than our mere survival. We spend much of our time pursuing what we think will make us happy: We surround ourselves with friends, find hobbies like stamp collecting, and seek out pleasures like good food.

We also spend a lot of time and energy trying to accumulate as much wealth as possible, and this pursuit has become one of the most controversial issues among researchers of happiness (or “subjective well-being,” as they call it). While it seems obvious that money can buy us many of the things that make life more enjoyable, most of us (myself included) shudder to think that a material object can have such a strong influence on our happiness.

So, how important is wealth to happiness?

In an effort to understand how economic hardships could affect well-being, Gallup Polls—one of the largest polling agencies in the country—collected one million responses assessing Americans’ happiness and how much they felt they were thriving, struggling, or suffering. They looked at the period from 2008 until 2010, with a particular focus on the effect of the 2009 economic recession.

Overall, the poll tells us a few things we already knew:
1. People are happier during the weekends (happiness fluctuated by 10 percent or more from weekdays to weekends!)
2. Americans have relatively, but not incredibly, high well-being on average.

We rank 15th out of 97 countries that have been measured for well-being, according to the World Values Index. With a mean of about 60-70 percent, we show room for improvement, but overall, most Americans seem pretty happy and satisfied with their lives.

During the recession, the polls show a slight dip in well-being (about 4 percent) in conjunction with a greater number of individuals who reported struggling as opposed to thriving. (Important note: Always read your graphs carefully. The results for this measure are on a scale ranging from 1-10; the authors categorized thriving as scores 7-10, and struggling as 5-6, which is a bit sneaky).

So how do we interpret these findings, and where do they fit into what we know about money and well-being? Research in this area provides mixed results. In a comprehensive review of the literature, the father-son team of Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener showed that while nations with greater wealth generally have higher well-being, wealth within a nation correlates very little with well-being. In fact, countries that show economic growth do not show corresponding increases in well-being.

Even more telling, people who focus on accumulating material wealth show lower levels of well-being. On the other hand, people who lose their job consistently show a drop in happiness, which certainly occurred as the recession took full force.

Gallup suggests that their results reflect significant changes in the well-being and happiness of the American people during the recession. However, it appears that although small drops in happiness were certainly associated with the economic recession, it was fairly robust even in the face of economic hardship. If anything, the poll suggests that although the economy was plummeting, individuals were able to find happiness in other areas, such as social support, which is one of the strongest predictors of well-being.

These results help remind us that money doesn’t buy happiness, and that even in the face of economic hardship, we can find joy amongst friends and family.

 

Tracker Pixel for Entry
 
 
 
About The Author

Jennifer Stellar is a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the Greater Good Science Center’s Hornaday Graduate Fellows for the 2011-12 academic year. This post originally appeared on the Berkeley Science Review Blog.

  

Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

Donate
 
  
 

that’s new ..
thanks for sharing

اصالة | 6:52 am, September 23, 2011 | Link

 

As for me the guarantee of happiness is being in love, cause I think it’s obvious, when you love someone everything seems great!

Magento | 9:02 am, October 5, 2011 | Link

 

In my reagion alone i’ve seen a massive slump in attitude from the recession

Wedding Venues | 3:45 pm, October 15, 2011 | Link

 

It is quite understandable that someone who has lost their job would see a decrease in happiness. The stress and fear, especially with the job market so stagnate, is a very real and serious concern. Many tough and unfavorable decisions have to be made: should we sell the home and start renting? Should we move to the city and find a building for rent in a walkable area that will allow us to sell one or all of our vehicles and still have access to employment opportunities? How do these decisions effect one’s spouse or children? The list goes on and on. As you can see, job loss alone creates a ripple effect with all sorts of relationships from familial to professional.

The good new is, as the article shows, once one gets used to a downsized lifestyle, becomes socially engaged, and achieves stability in the new environment, they may realize they are just as happy as they were in their previous way of life.

grace | 1:48 am, October 26, 2011 | Link

 

I also agree that in the period of recession lots of
people feels not happy at all. And of course it is
understandable because if the whole family
depends on you there is nothing to be happy about
in such case. But still I refuse to think that all our
well-being depends on the economic of the
country, as for me when you are in love, nothing
can depress you.

Zen Cart | 8:45 am, October 26, 2011 | Link

 

I can honestly say that the recession has me feeling very much depressed.  At 30 years old, the last 5 has been hell and there’s not much chance things are going to get a lot better until my kids are near the age where they are going to graduate high school.  I feel like the “good years” of our generation have been stolen by the previous one.

24 Hr Fitness | 9:36 pm, November 5, 2011 | Link

 

Bussiness book is used to congratulate all of our colleguas in national traditional days such as new year, christmast, etc. In this way, we try to respect our clients and friends in their own religion days etc.

Sunlighten | 12:34 am, November 21, 2011 | Link

 

Even more telling, people who focus on accumulating
material wealth show lower levels of well-being
thanks.

menopausetreatmentguide.org | 2:03 pm, November 24, 2011 | Link

 

“So how do we interpret these findings, and where do they fit into what we know about money and well-being? Research in this area provides mixed results. In a comprehensive review of the literature, the father-son team of Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener showed that while nations with greater wealth generally have higher well-being, wealth within a nation correlates very little with well-being. In fact, countries that show economic growth do not show corresponding increases in well-being.” True, very true.

Pictures of Jesus | 3:49 pm, January 4, 2012 | Link

 

Doesn’t make me sad. You gotta rise above it. Stop listening to the media.

Easytether Download | 4:13 pm, January 4, 2012 | Link

 

I think most important is the “fear” of rejection or
fearing of anything. I refuse to think that all our
well-being depends on the economic of the
country, as for me when you are in love, nothing
can depress you.

tynes | 9:46 am, November 1, 2012 | Link

 
blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Most...

  
  

Greater Good Events

The Science of Happiness

Starts September 9, 2014 - Register Now!


The Science of Happiness

An unprecedented free online course exploring the roots of a happy, meaningful life. Co-taught by the GGSC’s Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas. Up to 16 CE credit hours available.


» ALL EVENTS
 
 

Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!

» TAKE A QUIZ
 

Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.

Watch
 

Greater Good Resources

 
 
» MORE STUDIES
 
 
» MORE ORGS
 

Book of the Week

Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain By Sharon Begley Begley explains neuroplasticity: how experience can shape the brain’s structure—and, in turn, change the way our minds and bodies function.

» READ MORE
 
Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.

Dr. Christine Carter's blog on the science of raising happy kids.

» READ MORE
 

Sponsors

The Quality of Life Foundation logo Special thanks to

The Quality of Life Foundation for its support of the Greater Good Science Center

 
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement