Can Spending Money Make You Feel Better?

In a previous episode of Family Anatomy we discussed the life factors that led to happiness and a sense of well-being. Decades of research indicate that once income registers above the poverty line increased income has no relationship to happiness or well-being. However, new research from Ryan Howell, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University indicates that this is not entirely true. According to Howell, it all depends on what you spend your money on. Howell makes a distinction between material purchases and experiential purchases. Experiential purchases, for example, could include things like going out for dinner, or buying tickets to the theatre or a concert. Participants in the study were asked to complete questionnaires that asked about their recent purchases and then rate whether they felt that it was money well spent and also what effect they felt it had on their level of happiness. The results showed that people reported being happier when they spent money on experiential activities rather than on material things. In addition, Howell found that the participants tended to have longer term pleasant memories regarding their experiential purchases as opposed to their material purchases.

This was true regardless of how much money was being spent or the income of the people in the study. Howell speculates that a higher order need for connectedness is satisfied through experiential purchases as they typically involve social interactions with others.

You can read more about this study here.

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