Can money really buy happiness?

By Kendall Tich

In class the other day, my professor asked us “how do people measure happiness?” Of course, happiness is subjective and can vary from person to person but society has certain ways of measuring it. Perhaps the reason for unhappiness lies in those measurements and the way we compare ourselves to one another.

An interesting point that was brought up was the measurement of wealth. Money is tangible and can be shown to others. It is one of the many reasons we attend a university; we desire success and wealth is a quantifiable way to measure that. What makes you the happiest- an increase in your salary? a new car? an expensive vacation? These have all previously been measurements of happiness, success, wealth and prosperity but rarely do we find out just how happy all these purchases really make people.

Although GDP and wealth per capita in the United States have dramatically increased in the past couple decades, there is no proof that Americans are any happier. Many states are currently working toward making the societal and economic well-being of their residents a main priority, which was never a major goal in the past. But even with close attention to the well-being of US citizens, is there really any way to assure everyone’s happiness?

At USD, we pass by gleaming, smiling faces every single day.

“This school is full of pretty people and everyone seems so happy” said a random accepted student as I passed by a campus tour.

And she’s right; everyone seems happy, carefree and caught up in the Southern California, relaxing lifestyle. You walk by people carrying designer bags, driving luxury cars, talking about their house(s) across the country. But are these the people who are truly happy or is wealth just the only way to prove success?

“Money can’t buy happiness” was originally a theory that fell under the Easterlin paradox. With happiness studies becoming a new phenomenon since the early 2000s, more and more surveys and studies have been conducted in accordance with this theory.

Recently, the United Nations committee has told governments involved to start implementing happiness measures and conduct studies and research to identify the overall happiness of their respective countries. In fact, a panel in the United States is exploring this as we speak.

The more data that comes up about happiness and its correlation to wealth seems to have made a significant shift in the past couple years. Generally speaking, the new data seems to disprove the Easterlin paradox, showing that as people get richer, they report getting happier too. Of course it is not quite that simple and again, there really is not a universal, quantifiable way to measure happiness.

So you may have gotten through to the end of this column and wondered what in the world is this girl talking about. Well, although complicated, happiness is something that is achievable and it is happening all around us. By attending USD, earning a degree and finding a successful job following college, we all have the chance to become financially successful, which many would argue does lead to happiness.

If you are looking for immeasurable, unexplainable, sheer happiness, however, put yourself on a track where you avoid comparisons, concern yourself less with material matters and strive toward finding success on your own. The best kind of happiness comes from within yourself. Or, on the other hand, maybe there is some truth in the United Nations’ report that proves that money can indeed buy happiness.

Whether you stay true to the typical theory that money cannot buy happiness, or you adapt the new theory that it indeed can, it is up to you how you choose to find and make your own happiness.