In Brief: Money can buy happiness - if you give it away

In Brief

Money can buy happiness — if you give it away

Published: September, 2008

Here's a finding that may be surprising: Spending money on others makes people happier than spending it on themselves. That was the conclusion of researchers at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School who conducted three studies to determine the relationship between spending habits and reported happiness.

They started off by surveying a nationally representative sample of 632 Americans. Participants were asked to rate their general happiness and provide information about how much money they made each year, how much they spent during a typical month on bills and gifts for themselves (categorized as "personal spending"), and how much they spent on gifts for other people or on charitable donations ("prosocial spending"). Both high income and greater levels of prosocial spending were associated with higher levels of reported happiness (in fact, they were about equal in impact on the happiness quotient). Personal spending levels, however, did not correlate with reported happiness.

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