My mother used to say “Money doesn’t make you happy, but you can be miserable in comfort.” It turns out she was only half-right. Money doesn’t increase your happiness, but it does reduce your sadness, according to new research. That doesn’t really make much sense until you understand that the relationship between happiness and sadness is not as simple you think it is. “Happiness and sadness are not diametric opposites of each other,” writes psychologist Kostadin Kushlev. Although the two emotions are related, “happiness is not simply the absence of sadness, or vice versa.” Knowing that, Kushev and her team of researchers were curious to see if income has a different relationship with each.
“To gain a better handle on all this,” reports NY Magazine, “the researchers analyzed happiness data from 12,291 people who took a 2010 Census survey. The survey in question used a version of the Day Reconstruction Method, which, as the name suggests, involves asking respondents to recount their day in a detailed manner — it’s seen as one of the better ways to approach the difficult task of measuring happiness.” They concluded that although there was no link between income and contentment, “wealthier people felt less sad.” Kushev speculates that this is because of how we view potentially negative events through the filter of wealth. “Having more money provides more options for dealing with adversity, wealthier people may feel a greater sense of control than poorer people when difficult situations arise. Coming home to discover a leak in the roof, for example, may be an annoying, but easily resolved stressor for a well-off individual; in contrast, someone who could not afford to have the problem fixed right away might be plagued by this problem for months. “