Can money actually buy happiness? Scientists say yes - but there's a catch

In a new study, scientists at Perdue University say money can make you happier only until you're making between $60,000 and $75,000
In a new study, scientists at Perdue University say money can make you happier only until you're making between $60,000 and $75,000 File Photo

How many times have you heard the old adage "You can't buy happiness?"

You might not be able to buy it off a shelf, it's true. But happiness and money are related, and a new study suggests that more money does lead to more happiness - but only up to a point.

And it might be less than you think.

“That might be surprising as what we see on TV and what advertisers tell us we need would indicate that there is no ceiling when it comes to how much money is needed for happiness, but we now see there are some thresholds,” said Andrew T. Jebb, the lead author of the study and a doctoral student at Purdue University, in a news release.

The study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, looked at more than 1.7 million survey responses from 164 countries to determine at what point your income no longer has an effect on your emotional well-being.

The found that feelings of emotional well-being peaked when individuals made between $60,000 and $75,000 a year. For comparison, the median personal income in America is around $49,000, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The researchers also looked at how much your yearly income affects your life evaluation, which is a measure of how you think you're doing overall compared to others.

"At this point they are asking themselves, ‘Overall, how am I doing?’ and ‘How do I compare to other people?’” Jebb said. For that measurement, the peak was $95,000.

But after that point, the scientists discovered those feelings of happiness didn't just level off - they actually dropped.

The study matches up pretty closely with a similar one done in 2010 by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School. In that study, researchers found that happiness peaked at about $75,000 a year. After that, more money didn't move the needle, reported Time.

The scientists think the reason may be because after all basic needs are met, people might become more focused on buying more stuff or comparing themselves to others - all things that put a drain on the good feelings.

The numbers are only estimates, and they can change depending on where you're from and who you are. In wealthy countries, the amount of money needed to feel happy is higher.

The calculation is also only for individuals. For families, it could be totally different.

There are some other ways money can buy happiness too - such as by using it to buy more free time. A 2017 experiment asked people whether they paid other people to do "unenjoyable daily tasks." If people said yes, their happiness levels went up, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Researchers have also found that material things are a poor investment when it comes to happiness. Better to spend money on experiences with other people that you'll remember, psychologist Amit Kumar told The Atlantic in 2010.

"These findings speak to a broader issue of money and happiness across cultures," Jebb, of the most recent study, said in the news release. "Money is only a part of what really makes us happy, and we’re learning more about the limits of money."