Recently, a citizen won the biggest prize in the history of the lottery in Germany, endowed with 23.2 million euros. According to the company that manages this type of game, the lucky one remained in a state of shock once the winning combination was announced and he was late in cashing out his winnings because, he said, he needed some time to process what it would mean to have so much money. “In fact, I even weighed whether I really wanted to receive such a large sum of money and I wondered if I really wanted to accept something that could change my life,” said the citizen in question, a resident of the town of Potsdam, near Berlin. Finally, he decided to collect the award from him.
Two days later, a well-known journalist wrote a letter addressed to the winner and published in the main German tabloid, the bild. The letter read as follows: “You have decided that it is better to be rich. I disagree. Money does not bring happiness. Rich people get cancer as much as poor people. Rich people get divorced and fight with their spouses, just like what happens to the rest. But, in addition, the rich end up suffering from stomach ulcers because they live worried and anxious about keeping their money. In addition, the rich live continuously with suspicion and fear of the covetous looks of the envious”.
If being rich is such a terrible thing, why do hundreds of millions of people around the world play the lottery? And why are there so many books, YouTube videos, seminars, and other content on how to get rich? It is worth asking ourselves these questions and knocking down the myths poor that reflect writings such as the letter published in the Bill.
From the outset, we must emphasize that, if we want to talk about wealth and health, the truth is that those who have more money also enjoy a longer life expectancy and a healthier existence.
Of course, the rich can also fall ill. But it would be a mistake to think that you have to choose between having good health or having a lot of money, since, in fact, the studies that have been carried out in the United States indicate that the 1 percent who earn the most live much longer than the 1 percent lower income (to be precise, the gap is fifteen years among men and ten years among women. In the case of the former, life expectancy is 87.3 years among the rich and 72.7 among the poor).
In Germany, researcher Dorothee Spannagel devoted her dissertation to studying the impact and dynamics of economic wealth in the Teutonic country. In her work, she compared the average of the population with the group of workers that earn two or three times more income than the average. We are not talking, then, of rich versus poor, but of upper-middle income versus middle income. Well, in this case we also saw that, in the case of those who receive the average income, 22.8 percent say they are “very concerned” about their own health, compared to 10.2 percent who declared the same in the upper-middle income segment. The researcher came to a clear conclusion: “the comparison can be summarized succinctly, since it has been established that, as wealth increases, the proportion of people who declare to be in good health increases”. Her survey results clearly show that, in health, above-average incomes compare favorably with the bulk of the populationsince “they are not only in better health, but also more satisfied with the way they are”.
However, this does not mean that being poor or having less income is necessarily synonymous with suffering more health problems. The problem is not in the lack of money, but in the lifestyle of the people. Many studies show that the lower income brackets tend to have a higher incidence of problems such as alcoholism, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, abuse of fast food…
Obviously, none of this has to do with money, because smoking daily is more expensive than paying a monthly fee to a good gym, just as eating fast food is more expensive than cooking healthy at home. It is also evident that alcohol is more expensive than the orange juice squeezed in our kitchen. So, living an unhealthy life is, in fact, more expensive than living a life of good habits.
Another question we should ask ourselves is whether money leads to marital conflict and causes less happiness in love relationships. Money arguments play an important role in all divorces, both when the stakes are high and when the estate to be divided is smaller. However, the question of money is not only important in a breakup: it can also be a very important point of contention in relationships.
Lauren Papp of the University of Wisconsin asked 100 couples with children to write down their daily experiences in a journal for a period of about two weeks. One of the requirements that Papp asked the participating families was to collect in writing what issues could generate disputes throughout each day, estimate how long each discrepancy lasted and simply define the reason for the disagreement.
The result of his investigation showed that there is no subject about which couples argue with as much tenacity and persistence as money. Most couples acknowledged that they felt that disputes over money threatened their future together and ranked these disputes as the most difficult to resolve.
The psychologist specializing in business affairs Erich Kirchler, from the University of Vienna, analyzed for his part what married couples talk about and discuss. To do this, he had forty couples write their daily experiences in a diary, this time for a period of one year. Well, finances turned out to be the most contentious issues of all. The couples repeatedly argued about money: what to spend on, how much to spend, etc.
If, for a month, we write in a journal everything that concerns us (work, health, parenting, finances, society, our physical condition, etc.), we will probably find that many of these concerns are they would vanish if we had ten million dollars in the bank… This does not mean, of course, that our life could face new worries, but hopefully those worries would be less serious.
Then, Does money bring happiness or not? Many people like to insist that having more wealth does not make us happy, but this is nonsense, because I do not know anyone who has ever claimed that money alone is capable of making us happy. Is having good health enough to be satisfied? Or is having sex enough to be happy with our life situation? Obviously, this is not the case either. And yet, no one would say that we should be suspicious of good health or sexual relations.
Poets, bards, and philosophers have coined all kinds of aphorisms to question the value of money and condemn the pursuit of earthly riches. “If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself,” warned the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tse. Musician Bob Dylan asked himself, “What is money? A man is only successful if he gets up in the morning, goes to bed at night, and in between does what he wants to do.” Albert Einstein said that “money only appeals to selfishness and irresistibly invites abuse.”
But, luckily, there have always been poets and philosophers who have analyzed this matter from a different prism. “A healthy person without money will live half-sick,” wrote the great poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. For its part, American poet Gertrude Stein declared “I have been rich and I have been poor. And it is better to be rich…”. Similarly, the writer Oscar Wilde, who loved to exaggerate to provoke outrage and thus reveal simple and resounding truths, stated the following: “When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I already I know that indeed it is.”
In recent times, many scientific papers dedicated to the investigation of happiness have been published. From this field it has also been affirmed that money does not make people happy. Already in 1974, the economist Richard Easterlin stated that there is no positive correlation between earning more income and having a higher level of happiness, once we are above a minimum level of annual income. Two Nobel laureates in economics, Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, qualified Easterlin’s finding and related it only to certain expressions of feeling happy – but they also concluded that the correlation between higher income and higher happiness only applies up to a certain limit (namely, an annual income of $75,000). Any scenario above this level of income would no longer have a significant impact on the happiness of people, who would have already become accustomed to living with more financial security and would only make minor adjustments in their lifestyle with each subsequent increase in their income. .
However, new research has refuted this thesis. The most recent analysis comes from psychologist Matthew A. Killingsworth, who has found that both “experienced well-being” and “assessed well-being” increase with income improvement. “Experienced well-being” was measured by analyzing 1.7 million reports that sampled the daily experiences of 33,391 Americans, who were contacted at random times via their smartphones to answer the question “how are you feeling?” . right now?”. At the same time, “assessed well-being” was measured with another periodic question, less restricted to each daily context (“in general, how satisfied are you with your life?” The result of the investigation determined that the “ceiling The $75,000 proposal proposed by Kahneman and Deaton did not exist.
In fact, among people with incomes above $75,000, the Killingsworth study confirms a clear correlation between having higher income and being happier. Methodologically, the study has some advantages over previous studies. For example, in past studies, respondents could only answer “yes” or “no” to questions about their happiness, while the Killingsworth study used a scale that allows nuanced satisfaction. Another great advantage consisted of the new technique that allowed the respondents to be contacted through their mobile phones, which allows the emotional states of the respondents to be measured on a daily basis. In previous studies, people were simply asked to recall how they had felt at a given time in the past, but not surprisingly these memories are often distorted and strongly colored by the present emotional states of the respondents at the time they felt. they are asked.
So if I had to talk to the lottery winner, I would tell him to ignore the letter from the bild. Of course: I would be careful not to warn you about something… The truth is that lottery winners should be careful. There are too many examples of people who lose all the gains made this way or through similar formulas. After all, those people who get rich through their work as entrepreneurs or investors forge a certain personality structure, as I showed in my doctoral dissertation, published in book format with the title of The Wealth Elite. But, of course, people who win the lottery don’t have that much preparation, they just get lucky, so it’s unlikely that they have the knowledge and mental skills to manage that much money. Something similar happens with the innumerable cases of music stars or elite athletes who suddenly made a lot of money, but ended up losing it all. And, of course, these people were not unhappy when they had a lot of money: they were unhappy when they lost it…
Rainer Zitelmann is a sociologist, historian and researcher specializing in wealth. He is the author of book The Wealth Elitein which he scientifically analyzes the psychology of the super-rich.
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No to ‘pobrismo’: money brings more happiness, better health and fewer problems