I’m sure many of us believe if you had more money we would be happier in life. While money can’t buy such important things such as family and love, it can certainly ease pressure from our daily lives and help up to purchase items and experiences that can bring happiness, even if temporarily.
While so many of us strive to do better in our careers so we can gain a better salary, we asked the age-old question, do high salaries mean we will be happier?
To determine whether there is a correlation between more money leading to more happiness, CPD Standards Office collated data from the Office of National Statistics to understand more about the relationship between the two aspects.
You can learn more about this study here. Various industries were surveyed for their level of happiness, average weekly earnings, anxiety levels and income satisfaction.
Average weekly salary and happiness
Employees over the age of 16 were asked on a scale of 0 to 10 where would they rate their happiness, with 0 being completely unhappy and 10 being completely happy.
The industries that came out on top for the highest correlation between happiness and average weekly earnings were:
- Retail trade and repairs – 92.01%
- Accommodation and food service activities – 88.91%
- Education – 88.59%
- Administrative and support service activities – 87.4%
- Manufacturing (engineering and allied industries) – 86.3%
The industries that showed the weakest correlation were:
- Mining and quarrying – 22.15%
- Professional, scientific and technical activities – 26.18%
- Manufacturing (chemicals and man-made fibres) – 33.22%
- Real estate activities – 33.68%
- Financial and insurance activities – 34.30%
Exact data as to why happiness levels were so low or high was not provided by those surveyed, however, we can speculate. Careers, such as mining and quarrying, can be very demanding roles that come with high-stress levels.
These industries often pay a decent wage, but this is compensation due to poor working conditions. Therefore, satisfaction levels may not increase with high salaries as the intensity of these jobs can lead to strain, regardless of weekly earnings.
This certainly does not mean that the industries who showed a higher correlation in happiness and average weekly earnings are not stressful, rather any unhappiness can be lessened with higher earnings.
Generally speaking, skill, trade and administrative based roles see a higher correlation between weekly earnings and happiness.
Average weekly earnings and anxiety
Just like happiness, anxiety levels were scored from 0 to 10, with 0 being not at all and 10 being completely anxious.
The industries that reported the highest correlation between average weekly earnings and anxiety were:
- Retail trade and repairs – 74.52%
- Manufacturing (other) – 72.07%
- Manufacturing (engineering and allied industries) – 70.67%
- Education – 68.51%
- Accommodation and food service activities – 68.04%
These scores are not as strong as the 80%+ correlations that were witnessed between happiness and average weekly earnings, however, there is still something to be said for these results.
Anxiety levels and higher earnings have the highest correlation within retail, trade and repairs but they also reported the highest correlation with happiness. Anxiety and unhappiness are not to be mistaken for the same thing as you can be both happy and anxious.
We can take from this that as wages increase, so does anxiety. Higher paid roles come with more responsibility and stress levels which can lead to heightened anxiety.
An intriguing factor in these results, health and social work scored the lowest correlation between anxiety and average weekly earnings at just 53.40%. This is an industry that is infamous for high stress and anxiety levels but these results show that anxiety does not increase as wages do.
Higher anxiety levels are reported in those completely satisfied with income
Those surveyed were asked to score their income satisfaction and was broken into the following categories:
- Completely satisfied
- Mostly satisfied
- Somewhat satisfied
- Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
- Somewhat dissatisfied
- Mostly dissatisfied
- Completely dissatisfied
Managing financially also followed the same scoring system and was broken up into:
- Living comfortably
- Doing alright
- Just about getting by
- Finding it quite difficult
- Finding it very difficult
Those who classed themselves as ‘completely satisfied’ with their earnings showed a higher correlation in levels of anxiety at 65.68%. Those who are ‘living comfortably’ have an even higher correlation with anxiety at 89.97%.
We can conclude that roles with higher responsibility and stress levels typically bring in higher earnings but also anxiety. This does not correlate with happiness but for 65-80% of those living comfortably or completely satisfied with their income, the higher the levels of anxiety.
Bonuses and happiness
Throughout many industries, bonuses are offered as an incentive in return for exceeding expectations and meeting targets. This in return is often meant to boost staff morale and productivity. However, it appears bonuses may not be increasing happiness levels.
When asked if bonuses correlated with happiness, a very low percentage of respondents agreed with this. The industry with the highest correlation was the construction industry, but this was still a low at 41%.
We can interpret this in a few ways, perhaps bonus sums are not at a high enough level to justify a change of attitude or perhaps respondents income satisfaction was already high enough that a little extra would not bring happiness.
If bonuses are performance related, this can cause more stress in the workplace as employees push themselves to meet these targets. The outcome may not justify the means.
Happiness and income satisfaction
Those who stated a higher correlation with average weekly earning and happiness do not always report that same with income satisfaction and happiness. Higher earnings do not always justify income satisfaction, those on a modest income can still have a high level of income satisfaction.
These industries reported the largest correlations between happiness and income satisfaction:
- Retail trade and repairs – 87.81%
- Administrative and support service activities – 87.74%
- Education – 85.71%
- Accommodation and food service activities – 84.87%
- Health and social work – 81.98%
Those who reported the lowest correlation were these industries:
- Mining and Quarrying – 9.28%
- Professional, scientific and technical activities – 24.15%
- Manufacturing (chemicals and man-made fibres) – 29.18%
- Financial and insurance activities – 29.46%
- Real estate activities – 29.95%
The variation with income and happiness have very little correlation for mining and quarrying, likely due to harsh working conditions that will not change, regardless of income.
Overall, retail, trade and repairs have the highest correlation with income satisfaction, average weekly earnings as well as income satisfaction and happiness but this industry also has a higher correlation with anxiety.
So money can equal happiness, but it all depends on what industry you work in. You will also have to sacrifice your mental health for higher levels of anxiety to achieve this.
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