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Metaphysics & Psychology

Material well-being? Poor communities are among the happiest

Material well-being? Poor communities are among the happiest 1

Scientists from Canada and Spain have found that societies in which money plays a minimal role have very high levels of happiness, the same as in Scandinavian countries. The work was published in the PLOS One magazine. 

The effect of having or not having money on happiness has been studied for a long time, but research results on this topic are often conflicting. So, last January, a scientist from the University of Pennsylvania (USA) showed that the more money a person has, the more prosperous he feels. It is also known that the happiest (according to the subjective assessment of residents) are the Scandinavian countries, where money plays a rather significant role.

Economic growth, in principle, is often associated with a reliable increase in the level of human well-being. However, a study by scientists from McGill Universities (Canada) and Barcelona (Spain) shows that these findings need to be revised. The authors set out to find out how people from those communities where money plays a minimal role and which are usually not included in the world’s research on happiness, assess their subjective well-being.

To do this, scientists lived for several months in small fishing villages and cities in the Solomon Islands and Bangladesh – countries with extremely low incomes. During this time, with the help of local translators, the authors of the study interviewed residents of rural areas and cities several times (in person and through phone calls) about what happiness means to them. They were also asked about past moods, lifestyle, income, fishing and household chores. All surveys were conducted at times when people were not ready for them, which increases the degree of confidence in the answers.

Material well-being? Poor communities are among the happiest 2

The study involved 678 people aged 20 to 50 years, the average age was 37 years. Almost 85 percent of those surveyed in Bangladesh were men, as the country’s ethical standards made it difficult to interview women. Scientists also emphasize that the answers to the questions of men and women in the Solomon Islands were slightly different, since the gender rules for them are approximately similar, in contrast to Bangladesh. Therefore, further research is needed for final conclusions.

The results of the work showed that the higher the incomes and material well-being of people (for example, in cities in comparison with villages), the less happy they feel. And vice versa: the lower the income of the participants, the subjectively they felt happier, associating well-being with being in nature and in the circle of close people.

In addition, the feeling of happiness can be influenced by comparing oneself with others – those who live in developed countries, so access to the Internet and similar resources also reduces the level of subjective happiness. Scientists conclude that monetization, especially in the early stages of community development, can be detrimental to the well-being of its members.

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