Study explores link between money, happiness



One common desire everyone shares is finding out what makes them happy. Without happiness, the struggles and even the greatest moments in life could seem worthless and are at risk to go unnoticed.

There has been a recent jump in research on subjective well-being, especially through the struggling economy. While results have varied amongst studies, there seems to be one commonality: subjective well-being is a complex concept.

According to a study published by The Journal of Happiness Studies, over the last thirty years requirements in measuring subjective well-being have come to include psychological, sociological economical and political factors, in addition to demographics, religion, education, and health.

In their study, Maria Pereira and Filipe Coelho focus on interrelated financial determinants of subjective well-being, such as income, reference income, perceived income adequacy and borrowing income.

Anyone who goes through the actions of everyday life knows that happiness is measured differently by every individual. Some may focus on income, while others measure their happiness by family, faith and life opportunities. One community that contains a mixture varying views is the college community.

Lauren Prinzing, a senior at The University studying exercise science, was recently accepted to St. Louis University, where she will pursue a Master of Business Administration in public health.

Prinzing said that she did not always plan on studying public health, but she is excited for the next two years now that she has made her decision.

“I was originally going to go to PT [physical therapy] school, but last year I wasn’t positive if that was what I wanted to do anymore,” Prinzing said. “I like the idea of preventive measures of helping people avoid needing to go to the doctor or physical therapy in the first place. I think that is what kind of attracted me to it because I like to live a healthy lifestyle.”

Prinzing was raised in a family setting that provided great support for everything she participated it in, whether it was track and field or her love for horses.

Despite this strong family support, Prinzing said she was always encouraged to be financially independent, forcing her to work two summer jobs, and maintain her grades, in order to leave college without any major financial debt.

“My parents have always told me to do my best and they will be happy with that, which I think has been huge for me,” Prinzing said. “I’ve also been fortunate enough to get some really great scholarships.”

According to the study, income has been the focus of research in subjective well-being, with results showing that income and happiness maintain a positive relationship. However, Pereira and Coelho wanted to see how much of a factor money really is, which is why they focused on income adequacy and borrowing constraints, two factors that have not been studied consistently in the past.

Prinzing said she has an idea of what an entry-level position with an MBA in public health pays, but regardless her upbringing has taught her how to live without the need for a large budget regardless.

“I volunteered in middle school and high school at a facility for adults with physical and mental disabilities that provided horseback riding lessons, and I thought that was something I possibly wanted to do as a career,” Prinzing said. “Now, I will probably be making less with a public health degree than I would have, so I’ve realized that I have always just wanted enough to care for my family, not excessive amounts of money.”

The study analysis used cross-sectional data taken from the European Social Survey, which led to a final sample size of 66,070 people. While results showed a multitude of variations, there were many similarities between genders, with the majority of men placing life satisfaction on total income and employment while women placed life satisfaction on opportunity, education and successful family life.

Although Prinzing said her college experience was unique, she does believe that society places a lot of pressure on money but still she is happy with her life and excited about the future.

“Just with the way our culture is, men are raised to be the bread winners, so I feel like they are suppose to be happy if they are making money,” Prinzing said. “I want to be able to provide for myself and my family, but I want to be happy, I wouldn’t want to be making $200,000 a year and be miserable.”

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