As the saying goes, money can’t buy happiness. A 2012 study by the American Psychological Association correlates that idea, and a recent research by Cornell shows that experiences make people happier than gifts. Now another study expands on the idea. Expansive research by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology shows that people who value their time more than the pursuit of money are generally happier than their counterparts.
The SPSP research looked at six studies with more than 4,600 participants combined, and the researchers found an almost even divide among people who place more value on their time or their money. This trait is fairly consistent among participants for daily interactions and major life events.
“It appears that people have a stable preference for valuing their time over making more money, and prioritizing time is associated with greater happiness,” Ashley Whillans, a doctoral student in social psychology at the University of British Columbia, and the lead researcher said in a press release.
Out of the six studies, slightly more than half of the participants stated they prioritized their time more than their money, with older people being more likely to appreciate their time than younger folks.
“As people age, they often want to spend time in more meaningful ways than just making money,” Whillans said in the release.
The researchers conducted six separate surveys with a nationally representative sample of Americans. The participants included students at the University of British Columbia, and adult visitors at a Vancouver science museum. Although the questions varied, some of the studies used real-world examples to test how likely participants were to choose money over time, or vice versa. Some of these scenarios included asking a participant whether they would gravitate toward choosing a more expensive apartment with a short daily commute, or a less expensive apartment with a long commute. College participants were also asked if they’d prefer a graduate program that would lead to a job with working long hours and a higher starting salary, or a different graduate program that would offer a job with a lower salary but working fewer hours.
The study did not include participants who live at the poverty level and may be forced to prioritize money to survive.
The results showed that people who delegated bothersome tasks, like household chores, to hired help in order to free up time often reported a higher sense of satisfaction. The same was true for people who worked fewer hours, or spent time volunteering instead of making money.
“Having more free time is likely more important for happiness than having more money,” Whillans said in the release. “Even giving up a few hours of a paycheck to volunteer at a food bank may have more bang for your buck in making you feel happier.”
Granted, most of these leisure options are easier to achieve by somebody with disposable income. So although money can’t buy happiness itself, having some certainly helps.