Pay isn’t what makes us happy

2009-10-10 00:00

THE famous saying, “Money can’t buy you happiness”, has been reinforced by a recent study conducted in the greater Durban area, which has found that the quality of relationships at work and the working environment play a leading role in personal happiness.

Income was found to account for only a small proportion of the factors contributing to an individual’s overall well-being.

Non-income factors actually dominate the list of contributing factors.

The study on personal happiness was conducted by University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) postgraduate student Kim Ingle under the supervision of UKZN Professor of Economics in Pietermaritzburg, Darma Mahadea.

The focus area of the study was the eThekwini area and the results are similar to that of an study conducted in Pietermaritzburg.

Mahadea and Ingle told Weekend Witness that the working environment offers people challenges, rewards and good relationships, thereby contributing toward their overall sense of happiness.

“People found jobs that provide challenges in a stimulating working environment.”

They are busy and productive and derive satisfaction from not being idle. They feel a sense of achievement and that boosts their self-esteem,” Mahadea said.

Ingle said the working environment stood out as a factor in the survey given the amount of time an average person spends at work.

The trade-off between income-generation and leisure time was also a key consideration in assessing factors contributing to happiness.

“We are often stuck on a hedonistic treadmill. We work harder and harder at the expense of leisure and good family and social life. To expect to receive permanent happiness from impermanent worldly objects is quite illogical. Money can buy you goods and services, but cannot buy you real lasting happiness,” Mahadea noted.

Non-income factors and their links to happiness came out strongly in the study. Factors that are most notably linked to happiness (in order of strength of correlation) are:

1. Working environment and relationships at work

2. Education

3. Friendship

4. Family unity and togetherness

5. Religion

6. Health

Respondents with children were happier than those without them.

As a contributing factor, income appeared to be less important once a certain threshold was attained and basic needs were met.

Respondents’ aspirations changed as their levels of income increased. However, people tended to become more engrossed in consumerism and wealth creation as they sought to attain their “higher-order” needs.

Eighteen percent of all respondents were “extremely happy”, 33% were “very happy”, 36% were “fairly happy” and 13% were “not happy”.

Female respondents were found to have a marginally higher level of happiness than males. Females also tended to use more credit cards, in-store accounts and car loans, according to the study.

Married people polled seemed to be happier than single people.

There was no significant difference in the reported levels of happiness among the different race groups.

1. Working environment and relationships at work

2. Education

3. Friendship

4. Family unity and togetherness

5. Religion

6. Health

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