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New study explains how happiness can be bought




A man sits in a deckchair as people enjoy the weather conditions as they sit on Brighton beach on the south coast of England.
A man sits in a deckchair as people enjoy the weather conditions as they sit on Brighton beach on the south coast of England.
GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images

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It’s often been said that money can’t (or won’t) buy happiness.

The road to adulthood is littered with cautionary tales with this idea as the moral. King Midas’ touch turned things to gold, but he soon realized the fatal flaw in his plan after touching his daughter and turning her to a gold statue. One of author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic characters, eccentric millionaire Jay Gatsby, throws lavish parties every weekend and has all the world’s modern comforts but can’t buy the one thing that truly makes him happy: love.

But the findings of a new study suggests that you might actually be able to buy yourself happiness – if you spend your money right.

The study, co-authored by American and Dutch researchers, suggests that people who buy time for themselves are happier than those who don’t. Think paying someone to go grocery shopping, walk your dog or do your laundry.

The study surveyed 6,000 respondents from four countries and also conducted an experiment in which participants were given $40 one week to buy something material, and then $40 the following week. People said they were happier when they had more time versus when they purchased a material thing.

With the prevalence of the gig economy and apps that allow you to pay other people to do your grocery shopping or walk your dog, it would seem it’s easier than ever to buy yourself extra time, and therefore happiness. That is, assuming you can afford to do it.

What do you think about the findings of this study? Does it correlate to your own life experiences? What kinds of tasks did you once do yourself that you now pay someone else to do? Do you find yourself happier as a result?

Guests:

Elizabeth Dunn, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and co-author of the study