We all know the old adage, “money can’t buy happiness,” so it’s not surprising that a recent University of Pennsylvania study finds that people who focus more on their social lives are ultimately happier than those putting in extra hours at work. The study makes the point that while the wealth in the U.S. has increased steadily, so has the hours that Americans work. Though finding work-life balance is a challenge, those who prioritize life over work are more likely to spend time with loved ones than at the office – and are ultimately happier.
Researchers recruited more than 300 adults to complete scrambled word games. While some of the participants received words pertaining to time, the others played with words related to money. Once they completed these games, they filled out supposedly unrelated surveys that asked how they planned to spend the next day, as well as how happy they anticipated being.
People who played the puzzles with “time” words expressed a desire to devote time to interacting with loved ones in the near future. Conversely, the people who dealt with “money” words felt pressure to work harder the next day. Since the word sets had been assigned randomly, the results suggest that people’s thoughts are susceptible to suggestion, and that those thinking about money feel obligated to earn more of it. Unsurprisingly, the people who intended to socialize expected that they’d be far happier than those who planned to work.
The same results held up when the researchers replicated the experiment exclusively with low-income people as the participants. Again, poorer people who thought about time were motivated to spend time with loved ones. On the other hand, the poorer participants did not indicate a desire to work more after being made to think about money. From the information collected, researchers were unable to determine whether this difference arose because low-income people are already constantly stressed about money or they simply lacked the means or motivation to earn money.
According to Professor Cassie Mogilner who headed the study, “Despite the belief that money is the resource most central to Americans’ pursuit of happiness, increased happiness requires a shift in attention toward time.” Sure, having money can provide a sense of security, but even in these times of economic uncertainty, it’s comforting to know that happiness can still be attained by chatting with our nearest and dearest rather than logging hours at the grindstone.
So close that laptop, cancel that 7 p.m. meeting and head home to the family.