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Does Wealth Make a Society Any Happier?

Does Wealth Make a Society Any Happier?
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The World Happiness Report tests the common saying that money can’t buy happiness. It turns out to not always be true. A correlation exists between a nation’s wealth and its self-reported levels of life satisfaction. Nations with higher levels of wealth and income generally report more satisfying lives.

The World Happiness Report asks participants to rank their lives on a scale of one to ten with ten being the best possible life. While giving a rough approximation of happiness, cultural differences might cause some countries to exaggerate their happiness more than others. The resulting data is useful, but still very far from perfect.

Levels of Life

All of which signals that the 2019 World Happiness Report, unsurprisingly, says wealthier parts of the world such as Europe, North America, and Australia, report higher levels of life satisfaction than the poorer parts of the world.

Anomalies include the US that despite its being the wealthiest of nations, is ranked behind other wealthy societies such as Germany, Canada, and the various Scandinavian countries. Two explanations for the gap are that the US has higher levels of wealth inequality and violent crime compared to most other developed countries.

Another surprise is Japan. Despite being one of the most developed countries in the world, Japan ranked behind both the US and even Mexico in the happiness ranking. These results are unusual given Japan’s very long life expectancy and low levels of crime. A clue may be other factors in Japanese life that cause high suicide rates and offer limited access to political power for women.

Money Is Not Everything

So, is the saying about money and happiness true? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Money can buy a sense of well-being. The ability to buy food, shelter, healthcare, clothing, education, and maybe even some vacations contribute to our happiness. But money is not everything – other factors like freedom, social connections, safety, environmental quality, and social justice also contribute greatly to the general feeling of happiness.

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