Happiness researchers have been monitoring people’s life satisfaction for decades. Yet despite all the massive increase in our wealth in the last 50 years our levels of happiness have not increased. “Standard of living has increased dramatically and happiness has increased not at all, and in some cases has diminished slightly,” said Professor Daniel Kahneman of the University of Princeton. “There is a lot of evidence that being richer… isn’t making us happier”
The research suggests that richer countries do tend to be happier than poor ones, but once you have a home, food and clothes, then extra money does not seem to make people much happier. It seems that that level is after average incomes in a country top about £10,000 a year. Scientists think they know the reason why we do not feel happier despite all the extra money and material things we can buy. First, it is thought we adapt to pleasure. We go for things which give us short bursts of pleasure whether it is a chocolate bar or buying a new car. Second, its thought that we tend to see our life as judged against other people. We compare our lot against others. Richer people do get happier when they compare themselves against poorer people, but poorer people are less happy if they compare up. The good news is that we can choose how much and who we compare ourselves with and about what, and researchers suggest we adapt less quickly to more meaningful things such as friendship and life goals.