There’s a saying: Money can’t buy you happiness. Numerous surveys have shown that this is indeed true, the people in the richest countries are seldom the happiest ones. Today’s Economist has a very interesting article about the connection between income and happiness and how it has changed from (pre-crises) 2007 to 2011. Apart from stating the obvious, the article brings up a very striking fact:
Overall happiness levels have r i s e n during the crises.
In fact, they have risen quite significantly in most of the countries. Considering how many people have lost their income or home or both in the last four years how can this be? How is it possible that after the tsunami and the nuclear disaster the people in Japan are fully 6 percentage points happier than 4 years ago?
Let me tell you why. Having a lot of money does not make you happy. It can satisfy you, but it certainly will not make you happy. What really makes you happy is when you have excellent relationships in your life. With your special one, your family, your friends, colleagues and other people. The opposite also holds true: missing those relationships can make you genuinely unhappy. Individuals who commit suicide often leave chilling notes that reveal just how lonely they were.
But how does it explain why the happiness levels have risen?
During the recession, there are fewer business opportunities and less work to do. The priorities shift from the office to other places (home). People have more time to spend with their beloved ones and then they suddenly realise that life is beautiful. Suddenly it is not important that the Joneses have a newer car and a bigger pool in the courtyard.
In the economic growth, the focus shifts back to working and people get to spend less time with their close ones. As counterintuitive as it is, in addition to the empty gypsum houses in the field, the economic boom also produces unhappy people.
All of this does not mean that pursuing professional career should be avoided. In fact, I totally support having goals and working your ass off to get there. But just do not have the misconception that the seven-digit figure in your bank account and 20-inch alloy wheels on your new X5 will make you happy. They won’t. And the Joneses will catch up soon, too.