Freedom leads to happiness

Personal independence and freedom are more important to people's well-being than wealth, a new study concludes.

Researchers at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand analysed the findings of three studies that included a total of more than 420,000 people from 63 countries and spanned nearly 40 years.

Their key finding: "Money leads to autonomy, but it does not add to well-being or happiness."

The studies looked at data from three different psychological tests familiar to therapists:

  • The General Health Questionnaire, which measures distress in terms of anxiety and insomnia, social problems, severe depression and physical symptoms of mental distress, such as unexplained headaches and stomach aches.
  • The Spielberger anxiety inventory, which evaluates how anxious respondents feel at a particular moment.
  • The Maslach Burnout Inventory, which screens for emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and lack of personal accomplishment.

The analysis revealed "a very consistent and robust finding that societal values of [freedom and autonomy] were the best predictors of well-being," wrote psychologists Ronald Fischer and Diana Boer in an American Psychological Association release.

"Furthermore, if wealth was a significant predictor alone, this effect disappeared when individualism was entered," they added.

"Our findings provide insight into well-being at the societal level," the researchers concluded.

The study appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.


(Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)

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