Money might not buy you happiness, but it certainly helps if you're Australian

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  • New research suggests money makes Australians, collectively, happier than those earning lower incomes.
  • It also appears to have influence over anxiety levels, sense of worth and overall life satisfaction.
  • Income and wealth inequality has been a factor behind recent political upheaval in Western democracies.

We’ve all heard the saying that money can’t buy you happiness, referring to the belief that even if you have all the money in the world, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll be a happy.

While that may be true for the individual, for those living in Australia, having money certainly helps.

Take the chart below as evidence.

Source: NAB

From the National Australia Bank’s December quarter wellbeing report, it shows the proportion of respondents who were feeling happy the day before the survey was conducted.

Notice something?

Happiness among those earning over $100,000 per annum is consistently higher than for those Australians who earn less than $35,000 per year.

And the gap is growing.

“In the December quarter, the highest income earners rated their happiness on average 69.6 points, compared to just 60.2 points for
low income earners,” the NAB says.

“In addition, the ‘happiness’ gap has been widening recently, reaching 9.3 points, well above the long-term average spread of 7.5 points.

“This suggests that while money doesn’t buy happiness, it certainly helps.”

And not only does having a large income make wealthy Australians feel more happy than their lower income-earning compatriots, it also appears to have an impact on overall satisfaction, life worth and their degree of anxiousness.

Here’s how collective responses among higher and lower income respondents fared when it came to satisfaction with their lives

Source: NAB

The worth they placed on their life

Source: NAB

And their level of anxiety

Source: NAB

Having money, based on this survey, makes wealthier Australians feel more satisfied with their lives, more worthwhile about themselves and less anxious than lower-income Australians right now.

That’s interesting, and also a little alarming.

In an era where inequality, especially wealth inequality, has risen to prominence, it goes someway to explaining why Australians, collectively, are expressing increased dissatisfaction with Australia’s major political parties.

When middle and lower income households are feeling frustrated compared to the minority at the top, it does, as has been seen in other major nations recently, often lead to looking for alternatives.

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