Science says it’s all about the money...

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Science - By KAREN KA­PLAN

THEY say money can’t buy hap­pi­ness, but science begs to dif­fer.

An in­ter­na­tional re­search team has demon­strated that you really can make yourself hap­pier by pay­ing other peo­ple to do your time-con­sum­ing chores.

It doesn’t mat­ter whether you’re rich or poor, the new study sug­gests. If you feel pressed for time, your life sat­is­fac­tion can be im­proved by trad­ing money for min­utes that you can use as you wish.

The re­searchers, led by Ash­ley Whillans, a pro­fes­sor at the Har­vard Busi­ness School, be­gan with sur­vey data from nearly 4,500 peo­ple from the United States, Canada, Den­mark and the Nether­lands.

Sur­vey-tak­ers were asked whether they paid other peo­ple to do “un­en­joy­able daily tasks” in or­der to “in­crease their free time”.

In 28% of cases, the an­swer was yes. Th­ese folks spent an av­er­age of US$147.95 (RM633.20) per month to buy them­selves ex­tra time.

What they lost in cur­rency, they made up for in hap­pi­ness. Whillans and her col­leagues found that the peo­ple who traded money for time were more sat­is­fied with life than their coun­ter­parts who didn’t.

They also were less likely to say they felt “time stress”, a con­di­tion that was linked with lower lev­els of life sat­is­fac­tion.

Just in case their orig­i­nal ques­tion was too nar­row, the re­searchers con­ducted a sec­ond sur­vey that asked more than 1,800 peo­ple whether they spent money to buy them­selves “more free time”.

This time, half of the sur­vey-tak­ers an­swered yes. Th­ese folks spent be­tween US$80 and US$99 (RM342 and RM385) per month, on av­er­age, so that others would han­dle chores like cook­ing, shop­ping and “house­hold main­te­nance.”

As be­fore, the peo­ple who bought them­selves time were more sat­is­fied with life than those who didn’t. And as be­fore, the peo­ple who didn’t em­ploy this strat­egy were gen­er­ally less sat­is­fied with life be­cause their lack of free time was stress­ing them out.

Th­ese find­ings held up even after the re­searchers took into ac­count the amount of money sur­vey-tak­ers spent on gro­ceries – a vari­able used as a proxy for dis­cre­tionary in­come.

“Peo­ple across the in­come spec­trum ben­e­fited from buy­ing time,” the re­searchers wrote.

Fi­nally, Whillans and her col­leagues con­ducted a more di­rect test with the help of 60 lucky work­ing adults in Van­cou­ver.

For two con­sec­u­tive week­ends, the re­searchers gave th­ese vol­un­teers US$40 (RM171) to spend. In one of the weeks, the vol­un­teers were asked to spend the money on a ma­te­rial pur­chase. In the other week, they were asked to in­vest their wind­fall on some­thing that would save them time.

The re­searchers checked in with the vol­un­teers each week­end to see how they felt after they had spent the money.

As ex­pected, the vol­un­teers re­ported less time-re­lated stress in the week when they made a time-sav­ing pur­chase than in the week when they bought a ma­te­rial good.

They also had more pos­i­tive feel­ings (like joy and en­thu­si­asm) and fewer neg­a­tive feel­ings (such as anger, fear and ner­vous­ness) in the week when they bought them­selves time.

“Mak­ing a time-sav­ing pur­chase caused im­prove­ments in daily mood,” the re­searchers wrote. “Im­prove­ments in daily mood should pro­mote greater life sat­is­fac­tion.”

In other words, they had found a way to buy hap­pi­ness.

The study was pub­lished in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sci­ences. – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service

If you feel pressed for time, your life sat­is­fac­tion can be im­proved by trad­ing money for min­utes that you can use as you wish.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.