08 Jul

Why money can’t buy well-being

friendship

Iceland. A nation of geysers, vulcanoes, its people and financial systems shaken up by a banking crisis and with very satisfied people. At least, according to a study by the UK based Office for National Statistics (ONS) into the general well-being of countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It’s an interesting study that once more underlines that it’s not all about the money. It cannot buy happiness or life satisfaction.

The report underlines this by highlighting that although all OECD countries have experienced an increase per capita since the economic crisis set in, “life satisfaction scores have not recovered to pre-economic downturn levels for more than half of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries”. This includes the UK that saw a nearly 5% increase in GDP per capita but not more satisfied people between 2007 and 2014.

The idea that prosperity and money were intrinsically connected came up after WWII and while the world worked in its recovery, it held true. Until in the 60s when other voices started questioning this proposition, as they were calling for other things to be valued such as human rights and the environment. This ‘change of mindset’  is captured in a well-known quote from Robert F. Kennedy from his speech at the university of Kansas in 1968:

“The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile”.

Although not immediately recognized, Kennedy had a point Harvard Business Review says in an article called “The Economics of Wellbeing”: “It gives succinct voice to almost all the major criticisms of GDP. The three main strands have been these: (1) GDP is, even on its own terms, a faulty measure; (2) it takes no account of sustainability or durability; and (3) progress and development can be better gauged with other metrics.” The last point has especially received support since his 1968 speech. Especially from those involved in the field of behavioral economics and the psychological research connected to it.

But where money cannot buy happiness or life satisfaction, it can help to create and sustain it through things like the delivery of services, access to good education and health care. The long queues in front of the banks in Greece and panicking pensioners, not knowing whether they will receive their pension this month, is a very current and clear illustration of this.

Checking in: How are you doing? 

The ONS compiled and organized data from different countries in a range of areas, from education to health and from employment to relationships. Regarding the latter the OECD is quoted as saying that “beyond the intrinsic pleasure that people derive from spending time with others, social connections have positive spill-over effects for individual and societal well-being. People with extensive and supportive networks have better health, tend to live longer, and are more likely to be employed”.

In the area of relationships/social networks the ONS gathered data around three questions:

  1. All things considered, how satisfied are you with your family life? A) Completely satisfied; B) Very satisfied; C) fairly satisfied.
  2. How satisfied, on a scale from 1 (being the lowest) – 10 (being the highest), are you with your social life?
  3. Who would give you support if you needed advice about a serious personal or family matter?

Why don’t you let us know how you score on these three points by emailing us at office@relationalresearch.org? In a few weeks’ time we will then report the results and give a ‘real time’ idea of how Relational Thinkers score when it comes to their relationships. Of course we’ll handle every contribution on the basis of anonymity.