The Worse Off Your neighbours Are, The Happier You Become


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It’s natural to compare yourself to those around you. No matter how high your self esteem, if your friends are making more money, it will likely affect your health.

Being surrounded by higher-earning neighbours is associated with lower levels of self-reported happiness, according to a study. This affirms economist John Mill’s idea that that men don’t necessarily want to be rich, but “richer than other men.”

The study, “neighbours as Negatives,” published by The Quarterly Journal of Economics, says that competition becomes so intense, people are willing to give up leisure and let friendships suffer just to mimic the material living standards of their neighborhoods.

“Comparison is rife with danger, but it’s understandable why we do it,” psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson told The New York Times. “We’re human beings and we naturally seek information.”

If you’re thinking about moving to an expensive neighbourhood for a status upgrade, think again. People who can’t really live up to their neighbourhood’s standards, but move in anyway, use the new larger houses and bigger cars as their frame of reference, which means you’ll never be satisfied, the study says.

Looking toward others who are worse off can also have an effect on physical health. Participants who used downward social comparisons in a study at Concordia University reported experiencing fewer cold symptoms, psychologist Isabelle Bauer at Concordia University told The behavioural Medicine Report.

Bauer, who studied how people deal with regrets, says the people who compared themselves to those at a disadvantage reported a positive effect on their emotional well-being over the months that followed.

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