We’ve all heard the famous quote by actress, Bo Derek, who gleefully proclaimed that “Whoever said money cannot buy happiness simply didn’t know where to shop”.
As students, who are notorious for being eternally strapped for cash, it can be easy to adopt this mindset and long for the day that we have a healthier figure in our bank account. But will this really solve all our problems? The answer is unsurprisingly unclear…
Scrolling through Instagram as most of us do on a daily basis, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit to being jealous of the celebrity lifestyle that we are confronted with all too often: flash cars, expensive houses and even pricier clothes. We seem to have this somewhat disillusioned idea that living this designer lifestyle would somehow solve all of life’s problems. But there is a fatal flaw in this theory, and correct me if I’m wrong, but celebrities do still have problems, don’t they?
Despite the glitz and glamour, they still get cheated on, divorced, betrayed and fall out with their equally famous “friends” (Katy and Taylor- I’m looking at you, girls!). So, one could infer from the countless celebrity scandals that money certainly hasn’t bought them all happiness.
But what about the everyday folk like you and me? We don’t live in world of supercars and private jets, so money could surely buy us a little extra happiness, couldn’t it? Interestingly, studies of human emotion in relation to spending money show that our happiness levels are significantly increased when we spend money on others.
In a study conducted by researchers at Zurich University, subjects who splashed the cash on loved ones rather than on themselves showed significant increase of activity in the areas of the brain linked to generosity and happiness, the temporo-parietal junction and the ventral striatum respectively.
Interestingly, this feeling of increased happiness is also experienced when we pay other people to complete work for us. I’m not talking about paying your mate to do your homework for you (ah, simpler times), but offloading certain duties like housework, dog walking or even cooking can significantly improve our mood: a finding that proved consistent across cultures. In other words, using money to buy time certainly can bring us happiness.
So, it seems that the scientific answer to the question “Can money buy happiness?” is: sometimes, depending on what you spend it on. Using your hard-earned cash to buy a friend a gift or to pay the neighbour’s kid to mow your lawn can- and does- improve our mood significantly. Despite this, I think it’s important to go through life with the mentality that money does not solve problems (unless, of course, your problem is no change for the parking meter).
There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and striving for that high-flying job with the six-figure salary. But doing so purely for monetary gain and ignoring all other rewards like personal growth and new experiences is surely a recipe for eternal unfulfillment. Strive for greatness; money is just a bonus.