New research reveals the rationale for the idiom, money can’t buy happiness.
Economist Dr. Eugenio Proto, University of Warwick, examined how personality traits can affect the way we feel about our income and life satisfaction.
He found evidence suggesting that neurotic people can see a salary increase as a failure, if it is not as much as they expected.
Neuroticism is a basic personality trait defined in psychology as a person who tends to experience negative emotional states. People with high levels of neuroticism are more likely to experience anger, hostility, or depression.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health, neuroticism is one of five personality traits that psychologists use to understand personality: the other four traits are extraversion, openness, conscientiousness, and agreeableness.
Dr. Proto said, “Someone with high levels of neuroticism will see an pay increase as a measure of success. When they are on a lower income, a pay increase satisfies them because they see that as an achievement. However, if they are already on a higher income they may not think the pay increase is as much as they were expecting. So they see this as a partial failure and it lowers their life satisfaction.”
Overall, these results suggest that we see money more as a way to measure our success or failure not as a means to achieve more comfort.
For more info: Life Satisfaction, Household Income and Personality Traits, Eugenio Proto and Aldo Rustichini, is published as a CAGE working paper. Find a therapist.