• Mayuri Vaish

Money and happiness?

Research suggests that money can increase happiness, but only to a certain extent.

Firstly, whether one is happy with money or not depends upon their relative poverty - i.e, how poor they are in comparison with those around them.[1] It’s also shown to be gender-dependent - specifically, women tend to be happier when their children’s well-being is improved.[2]

Also, people who can afford to ‘buy time’ report higher satisfaction.[3]

Nevertheless, as mentioned by many notable psychologists, it is generally known and accepted that money can buy happiness up until a certain point - after which it does not significantly increase happiness. It is consistently revealed that relationships play a major role in happiness as opposed to money.[4][5]

With regards to donating money, however, the knowledge is different. On average, people report higher happiness when spending on others than upon themselves.[6]

Neurobiologically, well-being has been negatively correlated with functional connectivity between the salience network (SN) and the anterior default mode network (DMN).[7]However, generally, the research specifically on how money can induce neurological changes pertaining to happiness are, to my knowledge, negligible.

Personally, I would hypothesize that they primarily induce a dopamine rush - which is involved in the reward pathway of the brain. But upon continuously providing money, these neurons would become habituated to the money, and thus not find as much pleasure in it. Neurochemically, this would theoretically occur due to a loss of dopamine receptors on the post-synaptic neuron resulting from phosphorylation reactions due to consistent dopaminergic stimulation.

Attached is an image of the dopaminergic reward pathway:


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