I think they should say -- Allah was right
Mom was right: Giving really is better than receiving
Canadian-led research reveals that when it comes to money, it's better to spend it on others than on yourself
March 20, 2008
Money can buy you happiness — so long as you're spending it on someone else.
New Canadian-led research, being published tomorrow in the prestigious journal Science, says that spending your money on other people makes you happier than lavishing it on yourself.
"Spending on others can make people happy, yet people might not foresee this ahead of time," said Elizabeth Dunn, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia and the lead study author.
"When we asked people to predict which of our conditions would make them happiest, they tended to think they'd be happier spending it on themselves than spending it on others," Dunn said.
Recent surveys, the study notes, have shown people in Western societies have experienced few gains in their overall happiness level over the past several decades, despite a dramatic surge in real income.
Indeed, previous research suggests that any money earned above the amount needed to cover basic needs generally buys little in the way of extra joy, even when it is used to purchase expensive cars and baubles.
"We suggest that how people spend their money may be at least as important as how much money they earn," the study says.
"Specifically, we hypothesize that spending money on other people may have a more positive impact on happiness than spending money on oneself."
To test this theory, Dunn's team, which included a Harvard University business researcher, conducted a series of three surveys and experiments.
First, researchers looked at the self-reported happiness scores, income levels and a breakdown of monthly spending for some 630 Americans, 55 per cent of whom were women.
"We were looking at the simple correlation between how people spent their money and how happy they were," Dunn said. "We found that people who spent more money on others, did report greater happiness," she said.
Second, researchers surveyed people at a Boston firm before and after they received their annual bonuses of between $3,000 and $8,000.
The level of each employee's happiness was assessed about a month before they received their bonus, then six to eight weeks after, as well as how they spent their bonus.
"We found that the size of the bonus didn't really matter, but how they spent it did," Dunn said. "People who spent more of the bonus on others ended up reporting greater happiness."
In the third experiment, researchers gave subjects a $5 and $20 bill, with instructions to spend the money either on themselves or others. Again, researchers found people assigned to spend the money on others reported greater happiness.
"We found people who were assigned to spend the money on others reported greater happiness," Dunn said.
Dunn explained psychologists have come up with objective, five-point scale measures of happiness in people and are able to compare one individual's contentment with that of another. She did not know which psychological mechanisms might bestow generosity with a greater ability to generate happiness.
"We think that when people spend money on others they are more likely to feel good about themselves, to spend time with others (and) to maybe improve their relationships with other people," she said.
As well, the selfless spending can come in many forms, including buying presents and outright charity. Dunn said it is not clear if one form of giving packs more joy than another.
"What this research does show is that using your resources, whether that's money or time, for other people is underappreciated," Dunn said.
Bob Wyatt, executive director of Edmonton's Muttart Foundation, said it comes as no surprise that people derive more joy out of giving. to others than buying for themselves.
"They get a sense of satisfaction out of furthering a cause they believe in," said Wyatt, whose foundation helps other charities become more efficient.
"When I look at our own (family) giving . . . I would rather give money to people who need it than spend it on more stuff for myself."