Whether you do volunteer work, are politically active, or take care of your grandchildren regularly: Those who consider their presence useful and feel that they serve a higher purpose through their actions are on average happier than people who still have meaning in their search for it. This is now shown by a wealth of psychological studies. As income increases, the relationship between meaning and satisfaction appears to be getting weaker and weaker, As reported now by a team led by Rhea Catapano of the University of Toronto. Accordingly, the poorest people in particular benefit from purposeful activities, while the rich are happy even without meaningful tasks.
Among other things, the researchers analyzed the data of about 350,000 Americans, who provided information about how satisfied they were and how well they saw their presence. They discovered that both variables were strongly correlated in participants who earned less than $2,000 per month. However, the relationship was much weaker for people who earned between $2,000 and $5,000 per month. Finally, the lowest was for people earning $10,000 or more per month.
The second study, in which the team compared data on about 175,000 people from a total of 123 countries, confirmed the finding. In almost all of the areas surveyed, people with lower incomes benefited more from purposeful lives than those with big salaries. The only region where this was not the case was East Asia. Here, viability and satisfaction were linked to a similar extent across all income groups.
An experiment of nearly 25,000 test subjects from France showed that the results held true even when the researchers didn’t look at participants’ actual income but asked them to place themselves on a kind of “social ladder”. At the top of the ladder, people were asked to think about the people who had the best jobs, the highest education, and the most money. Again, I found that people who saw themselves at the lower rungs of the social ladder were happier when they found their lives meaningful. However, this did not apply as much to people who thought they were on top.
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