Freedom, Not Money, Makes Us Happiest

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happy peopleCollective hand-wringing about the economy and poll after poll showing that Americans are pessimistic about their finances misses a key point: Money can't buy you happiness.

Freedom and autonomy are more important than money for personal well-being at the societal level, reports a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The study was conducted by researchers from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Their results are from a meta-study looking at data from 63 countries and spanning nearly 40 years of collected information.

"Providing individuals with more autonomy appears to be important for reducing negative psychological symptoms, relatively independent of wealth," the researchers wrote in the journal.

Other research has shown that how happy you are is related to how much you earn, but only to a point. Economists Daniel Kahneman and Alan B. Krueger wrote about their research on income and well-being in a 2006 article in Science magazine.

"People with above-average income are relatively satisfied with their lives," they wrote. "But [they] are barely happier than others in moment-to-moment experience, tend to be more tense, and do not spend more time in particularly enjoyable activities."
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