This is How Much Happier Therapy Makes You Than More Money

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Money can buy happiness, as long as you spend it on therapy.

Money.

You need enough to live, but loads of it doesn’t make you that much happier.

It’s something we’ve all heard — whether it’s from psych studies or rich people — but do we behave as though it’s true?

I sometimes wonder.

To help convince our inner Mr Burns, here’s a nice statistic from a study done by researchers at the Universities of Manchester and Warwick, who compared the happiness gains from money to that from psychological therapy (Boyce & Wood, 2009).

They found that therapy was 32 times as cost effective as money in making you happier.

They reached this figure by looking at thousands of people who’d started therapy and compared them with others who’d had large increases in their income.

It turned out that to get the same increase in happiness from $1,300 spent on therapy, a person would have to get a mammoth pay rise of $42,000.

Hardly likely, right?

The study’s lead author, Chris Boyce, said:

“Often the importance of money for improving our well-being and bringing greater happiness is vastly over-valued in our societies.

The benefits of having good mental health, on the other hand, are often not fully appreciated and people do not realise the powerful effect that psychological therapy, such as non-directive counselling, can have on improving our well-being.”

If this is true, why are many governments so obsessed with economic growth and apparently so little concerned with mental health?

Take the Chinese, for example, who are getting much richer, but no happier. That’s just one of many, many examples.

Although economic growth in many major economies is less dramatic than in China, the effects on happiness are about the same: zilch, or close enough.

Any idiot knows the answer to this one: it’s because money makes the world go round, world go round, world go round…

And yet it makes me think we’re all idiots for nodding our heads sagely that money can’t make you happy, then off we all go to put in another 12 hour day, or whatever it is.

Think how much happier the world would be if, instead of annual pay rises or bonuses, we were all sent off to talk to a sympathetic stranger for a few hours.

Image credit: Rachel Kramer

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About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 4 June 2014

Text: © All rights reserved.

Images: Creative Commons License