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What's happiness? Earning more than your friends!

Last updated on: December 15, 2010 09:20 IST

What's happiness? Earning more than your friends!

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Money can buy you happiness, only if you earn more of it than your friends, scientists say.

A study of life satisfaction in dozens of countries found that contrary to popular perception, economic growth doesn't bring with it a corresponding long-term rise in happiness.

While people may feel more positive in the short-term, the shine quickly wears off, found the study by researchers from University of Southern California.

However, they found that the rich are happier than the poor within an individual country, the Daily Mail reported.

This implies that what matters is earning more than others, not the actual amount earned, said Richard Easterlin, who led the study.

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Easterlin first coined the theory in the 1970s which became known as the Easterlin Paradox. With several recent studies challenging his findings, Easterlin again set out to examine if this pattern still exists.

After crunching together figures from 37 countries around the globe including burgeoning economies such as China, South Korea and Chile, the University of Southern California professor said little had changed.

Easterlin and a team of USC researchers spent five years reassessing the Easterlin Paradox, a key economic concept introduced by Easterlin in the seminal 1974 paper, Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence.

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He said: "Simply stated, the happiness-income paradox is this: at a point in time both among and within countries, happiness and income are positively correlated. But, over time, happiness does not increase when a person's income increases."

He added: "China's growth rate implies a doubling of real per capita income in less than 10 years, and Chile's in 18 years. Yet both China and Chile show mild declines in life satisfaction."

Easterlin's findings appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (PTI)

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Unemployed 'as satisfied as they were before losing job'

Losing a job is a profoundly distressing experience, but a recent analysis has found that the unemployed may be more resilient than previously believed.

The vast majority of unemployed people eventually end up as satisfied with life as they were before they lost their jobs, according to researchers.

"There's a real concern that this will have long-term implications on the mental well-being of a large portion of the work force. But this analysis suggests that people are able to cope with a job loss relatively well over time," said the study's lead author, Isaac Galatzer-Levy at New York University School of Medicine.

Galatzer-Levy and his colleagues analyzed results of the German Socioeconomic Panel Data study. This is a nationally representative survey of German households conducted yearly from 1984 to 2003.

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For this analysis, the researchers used data from 774 participants who had all lost their jobs at some point during the study. Included in this analysis were the participants' own reports of well-being in the three years before they lost their jobs until four years after the job loss.

The researchers divided the participants into four groups based on their life satisfaction reports. The largest group reported a relatively high and stable level of life satisfaction before losing their jobs.

These people were more likely to be negatively affected at the time they lost their jobs but a year later, their average life satisfaction had returned to its pre-unemployment level. The researchers also observed that people in this group were no more or less likely to regain employment by the end of the study.

For the second largest group, 15 per cent of respondents, their well-being was gradually improving before losing their jobs and then leveled off in the four years following their unemployment.

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Another group reported relatively low levels of life satisfaction before job loss, and their levels stayed more or less the same throughout the time of the researchers' analysis.

Well-being levels among the smallest group (4 per cent) were already declining in the years leading up to unemployment and continued to decline after job loss until it began to go back up in the third year.

But these people never fully returned to pre-unemployment levels, according to the findings. This last group was also the least likely to be re-employed in the years after they lost their jobs.

Their findings are published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics (ANI).


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