Can money really bring happiness?

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We all strive to do better in our careers, some of us simply wish to gather more knowledge or experience, but for most of us, it is the idea of a higher salary that really appeals.

But why is the idea of more money so appealing to us? While increasing our bank balance can certainly make lives easier for maintaining certain lifestyles and providing for our families, can it really bring us happiness?

It’s an age-old question and one that has been debated for centuries. We can agree that wealth can not buy good health and love, it can certainly ease the pressure of modern life. The CPD Standards Office, who offers CPD accreditation, recently collected data from The ONS to finally put this debate to rest.

The study collated data from respondents regarding their average weekly earnings and their level of happiness to determine exactly how we are impacted with money and reported their findings in their money and happiness study.The respondents were broken into various industries.

Industries with Correlations Between Average Weekly Salary and Happiness

When asked about their level of happiness, respondents were asked to rate on the scale of 0-10, with 0 being completely unhappy and 10 being completely happy.

The industries with the highest correlation between higher levels of happiness and average weekly earnings were:

  1. Retail, trade and repairs – 92.01%
  2. Accommodation and food service activities – 88.91%
  3. Education – 88.59%
  4. Administrative and support service activities – 87.4%
  5. Manufacturing – engineering and allowed industries – 86.3%

The industries with the lowest correlation were:

  1. Mining and quarrying – 22.15%
  2. Professional, scientific and technical activities – 26.18%
  3. Manufacturing – chemicals and man-made fibres – 33.22%
  4. Real estate activities – 33.68%
  5. Financial and insurance activities – 34.30%

Exact data as to why these levels of happiness were so was not provided, however, we can hypothesise. Many of the careers that scored a low correlation can be highly demanding and stressful roles. Industries such as mining and quarrying often compensate staff with higher earnings but due to the strain workers must endure, higher earnings may not equate to higher happiness levels. The negative impact on health is a good example of this.

This does not mean those who scored a high correlation are not in demanding careers, rather that any stress can be reduced with the benefit of a higher salary.

Trade, skill and administrative based roles see the highest correlation with wealth and happiness.

Industries with Correlations Between Average Weekly Earnings and Anxiety

Just like happiness, anxiety levels within the workforce were scored between 0-10, with 0 possessing no anxiety and 10 being highly anxious.

The industries that scored the highest correlation were:

  1. Retail, trade, and repair – 74.52%
  2. Manufacturing – other – 72.07%
  3. Manufacturing –  engineering and allied industries – 70.67%
  4. Education – 68.51%
  5. Accommodation and food service activities – 68.04%

Retail, trade, and repairs reported the highest correlation between earnings and happiness, but also higher anxiety levels. Most of the industries that reflected higher happiness levels also reflected higher levels of anxiety. As earnings increase, we can assume that job responsibility also increases which can lead to higher anxiety levels.

We are not to mistake anxiety as the same as unhappiness, we are able to possess anxiety while also being happy.

Health and social work, an industry infamous for high levels of anxiety, reported the lowest correlation at just 53.40%, showing that as wages increase, anxiety does not.

Those That Reported as Living Comfortably or Completely Satisfied with Income Reported Higher Levels of Anxiety.

Income was scored in a subjective manner of how happy the respondent was with their weekly wages and was broken into the following:

  • Completely satisfied
  • Mostly satisfied
  • Somewhat satisfied
  • Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
  • Somewhat dissatisfied
  • Most dissatisfied
  • Completely dissatisfied

How respondents were managing financially was scored in the same way and broken into the following:

  • Living comfortably
  • Doing alright
  • Just about getting by
  • Finding it quite difficult
  • Finding it very difficult

Those who placed themselves as ‘completely satisfied’ with their earnings reported a correlation in high anxiety levels of 65.68%. Those who stated themselves as ‘living comfortably’ scored an even higher correlation of 89.97%.

This shows higher earnings often come with increasing anxiety levels, most likely from increasing job responsibility.

money happiness

Correlation Between Bonuses and Happiness

While bonuses are often offered to boost staff morale and increase productivity, the study shows this may not bring the desired outcome.

Correlations between high happiness and bonuses were small and relatively inconclusive. The industry with the highest correlation was construction at just 41%.

Bonus sums may not be high enough to justify a change in attitude or perhaps performance-based bonuses could lead to increased stress as employees try to reach targets, the outcome may not justify the means.

Income Satisfaction and Happiness

Readers may perceive income satisfaction as the same as those on higher weekly income. However, this is not the case and those on a more modest income can still report higher income satisfaction.

The industries who reported the highest correlation with income satisfaction and happiness were:

  1. Retail, trade, and repairs – 87.81%
  2. Administrative and support service activities – 87.74%
  3. Education – 85.71%
  4. Accommodation and food service activities – 84.87%
  5. Health and social work – 81.98%

The industries with the lowest correlation were:

  1. Mining and quarrying  – 9.28%
  2. Professional, scientific and technical activities – 24.15%
  3. Manufacturing – chemicals and man-made fibres – 29.18%
  4. Financial and insurance activities – 29.46%
  5. Real estate activities – 29.95%

For mining and quarrying, a chance in income has very little correlation in happiness, most likely due to the poor working conditions that remain the same for the worker, regardless of income.

“Overall, we can see that a greater salary can equate to an increase in a feeling of happiness amongst the UK workforce, but it is all dependent on the industry you work in.

It’s important that businesses aren’t too focused on leveraging bonuses as an incentive to drive happiness and ensure that they put more emphasis on ensuring that the job itself remains fulfilling for the employee. We are now working in the digital age, where – for the first time ever – people are learning from work, not for work.

In order to keep jobs fulfilling, and also ensure that businesses remain agile and competitive, it is critical to provide continuous learning opportunities and formal professional development for employees.  Businesses that invest in learning, are those that thrive not just survive”  -Amanda Rosewarne of The CPD Standards Office.