News Release

September 24, 2004
For Immediate Release
Download the Report PDF

Contact: Ed Diener
(217) 333-4804
ediener@s.psych.uiuc.edu

Wealth Does Not Create Individual Happiness
and it Doesn't Build a Strong Country, Either

A study in the recent issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest addresses how economic status is no longer a sufficient gauge of a nation's well-being. The authors argue that the psychological well-being of its citizens is the greatest measure of a nation-- not the well-being of its economy. "While wealth has trebled over the past 50 years…well-being has been flat, mental illness has increased at an even more rapid rate, and data, not just nostalgic reminiscences, indicate that the social fabric is more frayed than it was in leaner times," the authors state. Prosperity is neither the answer nor the cause of satisfaction. The study calls for an ongoing systematic set of national indicators of well-being to report on a society and aid in its policy-making.

It has been assumed that money increases well-being and, although money can be measured with exactitude, it is an inexact surrogate to the actual well-being of a nation. In a 1985 survey, respondents from the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans and the Maasai of East Africa were almost equally satisfied and ranked relatively high in well-being. The Maasai are a traditional herding people who have no electricity or running water and live in huts made of dung. It follows, that economic development and personal income must not account for the happiness that they are so often linked to.

"Scientists are now in the position to assess well-being directly, and therefore should establish a system... to supplement the economic measures," encouraged the report authors, Ed Diener, University of Illinois, and Martin E.P. Seligman, University of Pennsylvania.

"A full understanding of the role of the quality of early child care requires consideration of the interplay among childcare, family, workplace, and society," asserts Marshall, Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College.

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This article is published in the latest issue of the Psychological Science in the Public Interest. For more information, contact Diener at (217) 333-4804 or e-mail at ediener@s.psych.uiuc.edu. A copy of this report is available at http://www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/index.cfm?journal=pspi&content=pspi/home.

This report is part of a continuing series of reviews by preeminent researchers who examine psychological science findings on topics of general public interest. Psychological Science in the Public Interest is a journal of the American Psychological Society. APS's mission focuses on the advancement of research and science-based psychology in the public interest.