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The Study of Happiness

Eyal Winter, Professor of Economics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explains that while it is clear that man should aspire to economic welfare, often defined as “well-being,” classical economics assumes that a person strives to maximize material gains because for most of human history, economic success was required for survival [84]. As a result, a mechanism evolved within us that compels us to obtain the means to survive, which is expressed in money.

However, researchers of positive psychology, Prof. Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener, PhD, summarized dozens of studies and found that, “There are mostly small correlations between income and subjective well-being (SWB) ... although these correlations appear to be larger in poor nations.” Moreover, “People who prize material goals more than other values tend to be substantially less happy, unless they are rich. Thus, more money may enhance SWB when it means avoiding poverty and living in a developed nation, but income appears to increase SWB little over the long-term when more of it is gained by well-off individuals whose material desires rise with their incomes.” [85]

Another interesting study, “Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is Happiness Relative?” [86] compared the level of happiness among lottery winners and people who became handicapped by accidents. It found that approximately a year after the event, a person who won the lottery was not happier than a person who was crippled by a tragic accident.



[86] Brickman, Philip; Coates, Dan; Janoff-Bulman, Ronnie, “Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 36(8), Aug 1978, 917-927,

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