Doubling someone’s salary has “minimal impact” on happiness

Would doubling your salary make you happy?
Would doubling your salary make you happy?

Doubling someone’s salary has a minimal effect on their overall happiness and in fact having a partner is far more beneficial to their overall wellbeing, research suggests.

Relationships increase an individual’s happiness far more than economic factors, according to the international study by the London School of Economics. They reviewed responses from 200,000 people from across the world to see how different things impacted on people’s wellbeing. Happiness was rated on a scale of one to ten.

Doubling someone’s pay saw their happiness increase by less than 0.2. Any small increase in contentment only came from people perceiving that their income increased in relation to others.

However having a partner increased wellbeing by 0.6.

Conversely losing a partner through separation or death decreased wellbeing by the same amount. When it came to factors that lowered happiness levels, unemployment and mental health rated highly.

While increasing salary had a minimal effect on people’s wellbeing, unemployment reduces the happiness of each unemployed person by about 0.7 points on average.

Additionally suffering from depression or anxiety disorders is not only more common than unemployment but also reduced happiness by 0.7 points.

Report co-author Richard Layard said this showed the government should play more of a role in nourishing the things that made us truly happy, rather than merely focusing on things that gave us more money.

“The evidence shows that the things that matter most for our happiness and for our misery are our social relationships and our mental and physical health. This demands a new role for the state – not ‘wealth creation’ but ‘wellbeing creation’.

“In the past, the state has successively taken on poverty, unemployment, education and physical health. But equally important now are domestic violence, alcoholism, depression and anxiety conditions, alienated youth, exam-mania and much else. These should become centre stage.”

The findings will be discussed at a landmark conference on wellbeing at the LSE on December 12 and 13, co-organised with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other leading institutions.