A new study finds a relationship between youth happiness and wealth in later life.
UK researchers say the first in-depth investigation of whether youthful happiness leads to greater wealth in later life reveals that, even allowing for other influences, happy adolescents are likely to earn more money as adults.
In the research, Drs. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and Andrew Oswald analyzed data from 15,000 adolescents and young adults in the U.S.
They discovered that those who reported higher scores on a technical measure of happiness or higher “life satisfaction” grow up to earn significantly higher levels of income later in life.
Investigators found that happy individuals’ greater wealth is due, in part, to the fact that happy people are more likely to get a degree, find work, and get promoted quicker than their gloomier counterparts.
And greater happiness has a big financial impact: the study shows, for example, that a one-point increase in life satisfaction (on a scale of 5) at the age of 22 is associated with almost $2,000 higher earnings per annum at the age of 29. This is on top of other influences on incomes.
During the study, researchers paid careful attention to the role of siblings, demonstrating that even in children growing up in the same family, happier youngsters tend to go on to earn higher levels of income.
Scientists say the results show that the impact of youth happiness is significant even when compared to other important factors such as education, physical health, genetic variation, IQ, self-esteem, and current happiness.
The researchers also studied how happiness may influence income. Mediation tests reveal a direct effect as well as indirect effects that carry the influence from happiness to income.
Significant mediating pathways include obtaining a degree and a job, higher degrees of optimism and extraversion, and less neuroticism.
De Neve said: “These findings have important implications for academics, policy makers, and the general public.
“For academics they reveal the strong possibility for reverse causality between income and happiness – a relationship that most have assumed unidirectional and causal. For policymakers, they highlight the importance of promoting general well-being (GWB), not just because happiness is what the general population aspires to (instead of GDP) but also for its economic impact.
“Perhaps most importantly, for the general public — and parents in particular — these findings show that the emotional well-being of children and adolescents is key to their future success, yet another reason to ensure we create emotionally healthy home environments.”
Source: University College London