People feel happiness in different ways—and one possible factor is how much money they make, according to new research. People with higher incomes tend to feel more positive emotions focused on themselves, say researchers, while those who earn less take greater pleasure in their relationships with other people.
The new study, published in the journal Emotion, isn’t the first to call into question the idea that making more money leads to greater happiness. But it’s unique in that it looked at different types of happiness—and how social class might affect them—using surveys of more than 1,500 adults from diverse backgrounds all across the U.S.
People were asked about their household income and also answered questions designed to measure how often they experienced seven emotions considered to be the core of happiness: amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, enthusiasm, love and pride. Some of those emotions, like contentment and pride, tend to focus inward on one’s self, the authors say. Others—like love, compassion and awe—tend to focus on outside people, things or the surrounding environment.
When the researchers compared survey responses of the highest earners to those of the lowest, they found a significant difference: Wealthier people experienced more contentment, pride and amusement, while poorer people reported more love, compassion and being more awed by the world around them. Both groups experienced enthusiasm at the same levels.