Your Income Reveals How You Can Buy Happiness

Whole literary traditions devote themselves to proving that money and happiness aren't inherently linked, but new research tells a different story. We already know that financial stability certainly helps your baseline mood, but for people at different income levels, getting happy looks pretty different.

Psychologists at the University of California, Irvine, surveyed more than 1,500 people about their household income and a range of positive emotions. The study investigates seven core components of happiness: amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, enthusiasm, love, and pride. The higher up the socioeconomic scale respondents were, the more likely they were to match feelings of happiness with focusing on themselves, like contentment, pride, and amusement. On the other end of the spectrum, people with lower incomes found more happiness in emotions that focus on other people, such as compassion and love.

"These findings indicate that wealth is not unequivocally associated with happiness," said lead author Paul Piff in a press release. "What seems to be the case is that your wealth predisposes you to different kinds of happiness. While wealthier individuals may find greater positivity in their accomplishments, status, and individual achievements, less wealthy individuals seem to find more positivity and happiness in their relationships, their ability to care for and connect with others."

The study has all kinds of implications, ranging from what kind of gifts to buy people to how to readjust your own goals for happiness. And of course, this isn't a hard and fast rule — but it could help you ask some questions about yourself, and about how to control what you can as you move through the world.