New research suggests that overall happiness in life is more related to how much you are respected and admired by those around you, not to the status that comes from how much money you have stashed in your bank account.
Researchers at the National Institute on Aging found that well-being is strongly influenced by enduring characteristics of the individual. In a 10-year study, they found that, regardless of whether their marital status, job, or residence had changed, people with a happy disposition in 1973 were still happy in 1983.
Now, psychological scientist Cameron Anderson of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and his co-authors explore the relationship between different types of status and well-being in a new article published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
“We got interested in this idea because there is abundant evidence that higher socioeconomic status — higher income or wealth, higher education — does not boost subjective well-being (or happiness) much at all. Yet at the same time, many theories suggest that higher status should boost happiness,” said Anderson.
So if higher socioeconomic status doesn’t equate with a greater sense of well-being, then what does? Anderson and his colleagues hypothesized that higher sociometric status — respect and admiration in your face-to-face groups, such as your friendship network, your neighborhood, or your athletic team — might make a difference in your overall happiness. “Having high standing in your local ladder leads to receiving more respect, having more influence, and being more integrated into the group’s social fabric,” Anderson said.
Over a series of four studies, Anderson and his colleagues set out to test this hypothesis.