Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Earning £50,000 per annum is essential for happiness. Really?

As anyone familiar with Monty Python's Four Yorkshiremen will know, "Money doesn't buy you happiness"

But it seems that communal living in a shoebox in the middle of the road while drinking cold tea from a rolled up newspaper is no longer the accepted path to contentment.

According to research undertaken by Princeton University, personal happiness rises steadily until you're earning a mere £48,960.98. (OK, the study says $75,000, but I prefer the pseudo-precision of the English Pound!)

Guardian: The price of happiness? £50,000 per annum

The survey asked people to rate how happy they felt each day, based on their experiences of emotions such as joy, worry, sadness and fascination. They were then asked to rate their overall satisfaction with life, on a scale where zero was the worst they could imagine life to be and 10 being the best.

The researchers found that life satisfaction rose steadily the more people were paid. Happiness rose with income too, but plateaued when people reached an annual salary of $75,000. For those on more, happiness appeared to depend on other factors. Unfortunately the "other factors" aren't particularly well defined, but are broadly characterised as "spending time with people you like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure."

There's actually an argument that, far from merely plateauing (a good word if you've a handful of vowels at Scrabble!) at a certain level, too much filthy lucre has a negative effect. How about these quotations from the über-rich and famous:
  • The care of $200 million is enough to kill anyone. There is no pleasure in it. (W. H. Vanderbilt)
  • I am the most miserable man on earth. (John Jacob Astor)
  • I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness. (John D. Rockefeller)
  • Millionaires seldom smile. (Andrew Carnegie)
  • I was happier when doing a mechanic's job. (Henry Ford)
Perhaps that explains why us Brits are such a miserable bunch. According to the Office of National Statistics, half of people in full time jobs in 2009 earned less than £25,816. Some 90% earned less than £46,278 a year. Just think: increase the average British salary by a mere £2682.98 per year (that a tiddly little £51.56 per week!) and 90% of us will be delirious.

I wonder what the 200,000 people in Niger made homeless by the extreme flooding which has only worsened the country’s crippling food crisis would make of all this though? The average total annual family income in Niger is just over £100.

Puts things into perspective, doesn't it?


  1. The uber rich and famous were probably unhappy because everyone knew they were rich. They must have attracted the company of those aspiring to be happy... I mean aspiring to gain £50,000 per annum.

    Guess they could no longer distinguish between the friends who were happy to be in their company and the friends who were just greedy.

  2. mwh: Thanks for the comment! Interesting point too - how do you distinguish between those who want you just for your filthy lucre, and those who are genuinely interested in you!