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Less Connection, Loneliness May Be Cost of Striving for Financial Success

With apologies to the Beatles, new research confirms what the group fabulously articulated over 50 years ago – money cannot buy love. A new study reviewed the observation that individuals who base their self-worth on their financial success often feel lonely in everyday life. Researchers from University at Buffalo and Harvard Business School wanted to learn why this link exists.

“When people base their self-worth on financial success, they experience feelings of pressure and a lack of autonomy, which are associated with negative social outcomes,” said Dr. Lora Park, an associate professor of psychology at UB and one of the paper’s co-authors.

“Feeling that pressure to achieve financial goals means we’re putting ourselves to work at the cost of spending time with loved ones, and it’s that lack of time spent with people close to us that’s associated with feeling lonely and disconnected,” said Deborah Ward, a UB graduate student and adjunct faculty member who led the research team.

Team members included Dr. Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, Kristin Naragon-Gainey, at the University of Western Australia, and Han Young Jung, a former UB graduate student.

Their findings emphasize the role of social networks and personal relationships in maintaining good mental health and why people should preserve those connections, even in the face of obstacles or pursuing challenging goals.

The research appears in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Depression and anxiety are tied to isolation, and we’re certainly seeing this now with the difficulties we have connecting with friends during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ward.

“These social connections are important. We need them as humans in order to feel secure, to feel mentally healthy and happy. But much of what’s required to achieve success in the financial domain comes at the expense of spending time with family and friends.”

Ward said it’s not financial success that’s problematic or the desire for money that’s leading to these associations.

At the center of this research is a concept psychologists identify as Financial Contingency of Self-Worth.

When people’s self-worth is contingent on money, they view their financial success as being tied to the core of who they are as a person. The degree to which they succeed financially relates to how they feel about themselves — feeling good when they think they’re doing well financially, but feeling worthless if they’re feeling financially insecure.

The research involved more than 2,500 participants over five different studies that looked for relationships between financial contingency of self-worth and key variables, such as time spent with others, loneliness and social disconnection. This included a daily diary study that followed participants over a two-week period to assess how they were feeling over an extended time about the importance of money and time spent engaged in various social activities.

“We saw consistent associations between valuing money in terms of who you are and experiencing negative social outcomes in previous work, so this led us to ask the question of why these associations are present,” said Ward. “We see these findings as further evidence that people who base their self-worth on money are likely to feel pressured to achieve financial success, which is tied to the quality of their relationships with others.”

Ward says the current study represents the beginning of efforts to uncover the processes at work with Financial Contingency of Self-Worth.

“I hope this is part of what becomes a longer line of research looking at the mechanisms between valuing money and social-related variables,” said Ward. “We don’t have the final answer, but there is a lot of evidence that pressures are largely playing a role.”

Source: University of Buffalo

Less Connection, Loneliness May Be Cost of Striving for Financial Success

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). Less Connection, Loneliness May Be Cost of Striving for Financial Success. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/04/20/less-connection-loneliness-may-be-cost-of-striving-for-financial-success/155636.html
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 20 Apr 2020 (Originally: 20 Apr 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 20 Apr 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.