I’m really enjoying Eric Weiner’s book The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World, in which he describes his travels in 10 different countries in search of the meaning of happiness. (Oddly enough, of all the places I’ve read about so far, the one I can see myself being happiest in is Iceland. Yes, the winters are dark and long, but he describes a creative atmosphere and a freedom to reinvent yourself that I think I might enjoy.) Anyway, along the same lines, a Gallup poll of more than 136,000 people in 132 countries that ran from 2005 to 2006 has come up with some new insights into the link between income and happiness.
The survey, which its authors report as the first representative sample of the entire planet, asked respondents about their income levels, standard of living, overall evaluations of their lives on a scale of 1 to 10, and numerous quality-of-life indicators such as the degree to which they feel respected or autonomous or find their jobs fulfilling.
The results seemed to identify two different aspects of happiness: an overall feeling that your life is satisfactory and the experience of positive emotions. Life satisfaction does correlate fairly well with income, but evidently the link between enjoying life (or not) on a day-to-day basis is much less well correlated with income. Basically, the study seems to have identified two different types of resources: the possession of economic resources affects life satisfaction, and the possession of psychological/social capital affects day-to-day reports of positive or negative feelings. The study shows that these two flavors of happiness are separate, but I wonder about how they are related.
This article from Science Daily has more information. The paper reporting the research is:
Ed Diener, Weiting Ng, James Harter, Raksha Arora. Wealth and happiness across the world: Material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010; 99 (1): 52 DOI: 10.1037/a0018066