It’s conclusive! Money can’t buy happiness, but sex can

Give me a little slack on the headline. It’s hard to pack a lot of stuff into a few words.

It might have been more accurate to say “It’s not conclusive, but it’s persuasive that…” or “2 out of 4 economists agree that…” or even “Say, here’s something interesting.”

And it’s not strictly about money, as the studies examined a wide range of material goods.

Essentially, some academics are getting into a little fracas, trying to see the truth or falsehood in adages like “Money can’t buy happiness”, “More is better” or “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

On April 14th, Tom Fudge of KPBS Radio’s These Days intereview UCSD economist David Schkade.;id=11402# In the intereview, Mr. Schkade shares his findings about what leads to happiness.

Some of his observations:

  • Happiness is not about how much money you have.
  • What people do with their time is most strongly correlated to their satisfaction. It’s less about their health, wealth, or color of their newest Hummer.
  • Those in engaged activities are the happiest. This includes all kinds of mostly social activities from chatting with friends, playing sports, exercise, sex, and even talking on the phone.
  • Those spending their time in work and watching TV report the lowest happiness.

Only two days later – April 16th – the International Herald Tribune released this counterpoint:

Entitled “Maybe Money Can Buy Happiness After All”, the researchers referenced in the article have compared the growing economies of many countries with their general satisfaction ratings.

Now remind me again: why do they call economics the dismal science?

p.s. anyone have the TV household adoption data for Bhutan? In 1972, its king introduced the Gross National Happiness (GNH) measure. Since that time, TV adoption has soared and, reportedly, happiness has started to soften. Is it to early to draw any causal conclusions?

p.p.s. If you want to improve your happiness, there are some other resources from a modern version of the hedonimiter (not only for hedonists) to a nobel-laureate-designed U-Index.


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