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Will you be happier if you get richer?

Hello! I am a new intern from Business Team, Elena!

I am currently studying international development in my university. This major focuses on diverse issues such as poverty, globalisation, gender inequality, conflict and humanitarian interventions. Yes, it sounds a bit depressing, but it’s actually quite interesting! Today, I’d like to share one of the most interesting topics I studied in uni, ‘happiness’.

People say they want to be happy, even children sometimes say their dreams are to be happy. Everybody wants happiness, but how is it achieved? The first thing you may think of is money so that you can afford delicious food, a comfortable bed to sleep and your favourite clothes. Yes, that’s right. Imagine that you win a lottery or that your salary increases by the decision of your boss. Your happiness level will definitely dramatically increase. In that moment we can say money makes people happy. But what about your feeling after a week? Do you still feel the same? Probably not. People get used to it.

Let’s look at the graphs. These show how much income and happiness have increased 30-50 years after the end of WW2 in high income countries.

Surprisingly, happiness level and life satisfaction haven’t increased much along with the increase in GDP per capita. This paradox is called ‘the Easterlin Paradox.’ Easterlin insisted ‘... economic growth does not raise a society to some ultimate state of plenty. Rather, the growth process itself engenders ever-growing wants that lead it ever onward’ (Easterlin, 1974).

There are two reasons which explain this paradox.

1, Hedonic treadmill. After an increase in happiness in the short run, people ‘adjust’ to higher income levels, their expectations rise and they are just as happy as before. This is the reason why you won’t be able to feel the same as when you first won the lottery a week ago.

2, Relativist concerns. Wellbeing is strongly influenced by the comparison with the achievements of people around us. If our income increases but also everybody’s else does then our relative status remains the same. For example, even if your boss raises your salary, you wouldn’t feel any happiness when your colleagues also get promoted.

If you look at these two figures, you can easily tell that even the unemployment rate doesn’t correlate with happiness level.

What I want to believe here is that what makes people truly happy is the environment such as their hobbies, beliefs, family, friends and maybe the nature. It’s not always true that you will be happier when you get richer. I’ve seen many people who are obsessed with earning money by cutting their own throat in Japan. However in, other giftmakers have their own core and still enjoy cooperating with each other and gifting to the earth. They all have their own meanings in their jobs. That is what I really like about!

At last, maybe I can hear some definitions of happiness from other giftmakers!

What is ‘happiness’ for you?

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