A recent article published in the Journal of Positive Psychology surveyed the life satisfaction of 99 garbage pickers in León, Nicaragua. Researcher Jose Juan Vazquez interviewed these difficult-to-access individuals and found that not only are they happy, there is no correlation whatsoever to their financial well-being.
This is one of those studies that take a moment to get your mind around.
Imagine you are an itinerant individual living in absolute penury in a third-world country. You survive by going through other people’s garbage and extracting your food for the day as well as other essentials like clothing and footwear. You live your life hand to mouth and what your hand finds are the things others have discarded. You recycle what you can for money, and this considerable effort earns you about $3 a day.
By downward social comparison, almost anyone seeing a person living in these conditions would assume the individuals engaged in this activity would resent their life circumstance and view their life as anything but happy.
But this study shows this is a false assumption.