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Spending on others brings happiness

Insider BuzzInsider Buzz: Spending on others brings happiness

Money can buy happiness when it is spent on other people, scientists have discovered.

Research in Canada and the US suggests happiness is not greatly affected by higher incomes or financial windfalls, it is significantly influenced by the amount people give away.

The more money people donate to charity or the more they buy gifts for loved ones or friends, the more likely they are to feel better about themselves, a team led by Elizabeth Dunn, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, has found.

The results applied when the sums were large or small.

Even when people were given amounts as low as $US5, they became measurably happier when they gave away some of it.

"Regardless of how much income each person made, those who spent money on others reported greater happiness," Dr Dunn says.

"These findings suggest very minor alterations in spending allocations, as little as $US5, may be enough to produce real gains in happiness on a given day."

While incomes in real terms have risen rapidly in Western countries over recent decades, research has repeatedly indicated that this has only a weak effect on overall levels of happiness.

Money seems to have a strong effect only until basic needs are met.

In the study, which is published in the journal Science, researchers sent questionnaires to a sample of 632 men and women in the US.

All participants in the survey were asked to rate their general happiness, to provide details of their annual income and to give a breakdown of their monthly spending.

Higher incomes were associated with small overall improvements in happiness, but higher levels of personal spending were not.

But higher levels of "pro-social" spending, on gifts and charities, were linked to happier demeanours.

"This study provides initial evidence that how people spend their money may be as important for their happiness as how much money they earn," the researchers say. "It also indicates that spending money on other people might represent a more effective route to happiness than spending it on oneself."

To investigate this further, Dr Dunn joined Michael Norton, of the Harvard Business School, to look at the happiness of 16 staff members of a Boston company before and after they received bonuses of between $US3000 ($3320) and $US8000.

Again, the size of the bonus received was not linked to happiness at all: what appeared to make a difference was how it was spent.

Those who bought gifts or gave some of the money to charity reported increased happiness levels. But the participants who had saved the money or spent it on themselves felt no better than they had before receiving the bonus.

In a third experiment, the scientists gave 46 participants either a $US5 or a $US20 banknote, which they were asked to spend by 5pm on the same day.

Half were told to spend it on themselves and the other half were to spend it on other people.

When happiness questionnaires were filled in after the test, those who had spent their money on others scored better than before.

Times

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19 comments. Last comment 9 years ago by RJOh.
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rubberbandman's avatar - Spawn Classic.jpg
mn
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Posted: March 26, 2008, 9:41 am - IP Logged

Really, I find that hard to believe, that couldn't possibly be true. If that was true you would see people giving all the time but you don't do you. If that was the key to happiness wouldnt people give away more than just twenty-hundred dollars. You would see people give away bountifuls of currency constantly but we do not so it isn't true.

"If we only knew what truly would make us happy, the world would be a better place." But it isn't so.

    chasingadream's avatar - Archangel 01.jpg

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    Posted: March 26, 2008, 9:47 am - IP Logged

    this article is funny.....lol

    Oogle  waiting patiently for my jackpot

      RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
      mid-Ohio
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      March 24, 2001
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      Posted: March 26, 2008, 9:53 am - IP Logged

      This article make it seems like beggars are preforming a public service.

       * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
         
                   Evil Looking       

        rubberbandman's avatar - Spawn Classic.jpg
        mn
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        Posted: March 26, 2008, 9:58 am - IP Logged

        This article make it seems like beggars are preforming a public service.

        Haha funny, didnt think of that but its true

          Uff Da!'s avatar - InCelebration 001.jpg
          Washington State
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          February 26, 2006
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          Posted: March 26, 2008, 10:23 am - IP Logged

          Oh, I don't see the idea that giving to others brings greater happiness than spending it on oneself as strange at all.  What I have a hard time comprehending is people who have more than they need for basic needs and a reasonable standard of living and don't wish to use some of their extra to help others.  I find it sad that they don't find the same joy I get in helping others.  My retirement income and my gifts may be modest but I would most certainly give more if I received more, such as a big lottery win.   I consider myself an incredibly happy person.

          I find it interesting to speculate about what in life has caused some of us to want to give and some to be more selfish.

            rubberbandman's avatar - Spawn Classic.jpg
            mn
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            Posted: March 26, 2008, 10:37 am - IP Logged

            Oh, I don't see the idea that giving to others brings greater happiness than spending it on oneself as strange at all.  What I have a hard time comprehending is people who have more than they need for basic needs and a reasonable standard of living and don't wish to use some of their extra to help others.  I find it sad that they don't find the same joy I get in helping others.  My retirement income and my gifts may be modest but I would most certainly give more if I received more, such as a big lottery win.   I consider myself an incredibly happy person.

            I find it interesting to speculate about what in life has caused some of us to want to give and some to be more selfish.

            We're not selfish we are just logical thinkers, giving to others just gives the illusion of happiness. Everybody including YOU are the exact same way, in fact the exact opposite is true, people giving to you makes you happier than you giving to others remember "The fear of loss is greater than the anticipation of gain."

             

            "Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"
            "The same thing we do every night, Pinky- try to take over the world."

              s5thomps's avatar - Lottery-033.jpg
              Hard Luck, Ak
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              Posted: March 26, 2008, 2:04 pm - IP Logged

              It is always better to give than to receive, because when you give you ultimately receive!                                                                         

                                                     Mail For You

                Uff Da!'s avatar - InCelebration 001.jpg
                Washington State
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                Posted: March 26, 2008, 2:44 pm - IP Logged

                We're not selfish we are just logical thinkers, giving to others just gives the illusion of happiness. Everybody including YOU are the exact same way, in fact the exact opposite is true, people giving to you makes you happier than you giving to others remember "The fear of loss is greater than the anticipation of gain."

                 

                "Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"
                "The same thing we do every night, Pinky- try to take over the world."

                You are free to speak for yourself.  But you have no right to speak for what I think or what what EVERYBODY thinks.  You are certainly not free to say that everybody thinks EXACTLY the same way you think.  Please get that straight.  It is your thinking which is not logical here!

                  Avatar
                  NY
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                  Posted: March 26, 2008, 2:48 pm - IP Logged

                  Really, I find that hard to believe, that couldn't possibly be true. If that was true you would see people giving all the time but you don't do you. If that was the key to happiness wouldnt people give away more than just twenty-hundred dollars. You would see people give away bountifuls of currency constantly but we do not so it isn't true.

                  "If we only knew what truly would make us happy, the world would be a better place." But it isn't so.

                  I find it easy to believe, because most well-adjusted people enjoy being able to do nice things for others. In the case of the people who were given money and told to spend it on others, they were able to do something for somebody else, and didn't even have to make any kind of sacrifice. That's win-win.

                  That said, without reading the full study I can't be sure, but I wonder if they didn't use adequate controls to differentiate between cause and effect. Perhaps they didn't find that giving away money makes people happy, so much as they found that people who are happy give money away.

                    Avatar
                    NY
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                    Posted: March 26, 2008, 2:51 pm - IP Logged

                    You are free to speak for yourself.  But you have no right to speak for what I think or what what EVERYBODY thinks.  You are certainly not free to say that everybody thinks EXACTLY the same way you think.  Please get that straight.  It is your thinking which is not logical here!

                    Of course he's free to say that everybody thinks exactly the same way he does. He's guaranteed that right by the constitution. Fortunately, he's completely wrong when he does say it. I'm pretty sure you and I are far from being alone in being unimpressed (at least in a good sense) by his displays of reasoning.

                      Uff Da!'s avatar - InCelebration 001.jpg
                      Washington State
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                      Posted: March 26, 2008, 3:00 pm - IP Logged

                      KY Floyd - You're right, of course.  You said it far better than I.

                        rubberbandman's avatar - Spawn Classic.jpg
                        mn
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                        Posted: March 26, 2008, 3:04 pm - IP Logged

                        Of course he's free to say that everybody thinks exactly the same way he does. He's guaranteed that right by the constitution. Fortunately, he's completely wrong when he does say it. I'm pretty sure you and I are far from being alone in being unimpressed (at least in a good sense) by his displays of reasoning.

                        Dude, again I am still here, i can read your messages whats up with the insults that hurts, did I insult you in anyway, or did I provide constructive criticism, think about it.

                        ps. yours and everybody else's insult attacks on me personally do hurt.

                          savagegoose's avatar - ProfilePho
                          adelaide sa
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                          Posted: March 27, 2008, 11:53 am - IP Logged

                          if i was given $20 and told to spend it on someone else, id feel bad , cuz i didnt get on the sample that got to spend it on myself.

                           

                          oh hehe, of course I could buy flower for my GF,  thats kinda like spending it on yaself. :P

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                            rubberbandman's avatar - Spawn Classic.jpg
                            mn
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                            Posted: March 27, 2008, 1:20 pm - IP Logged

                            if i was given $20 and told to spend it on someone else, id feel bad , cuz i didnt get on the sample that got to spend it on myself.

                             

                            oh hehe, of course I could buy flower for my GF,  thats kinda like spending it on yaself. :P

                            I think one would be neutral because you have no attachment or immediate use for it if it was just given to you, now if you worked for that money and was told to give it away then that's a different story because you would feel you would have rights to posses it. 

                            Is $20 in Australia the same amount as it is in the US?

                            "Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"
                            "The same thing we do every night, Pinky- try to take over the world."