"Long before it's in the papers"
January 27, 2015


Happy kids found more likely to get rich

Nov. 20, 2012
Courtesy of University College London
and World Science staff

Hap­py ado­les­cents are more likely to be­come rich or well-off ad­ults, even after ac­count­ing for many other fact­ors, new re­search in­di­cates.

The finding comes just days after scientists reported a separate study sug­gesting that cur­rent hap­pi­ness, too, im­proves peo­ple’s fin­an­cial status and de­ci­sion­mak­ing.

In the new work, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve of Uni­vers­ity Col­lege Lon­don and An­drew Os­wald of the Uni­vers­ity of War­wick in the U.K. an­a­lyzed da­ta from 15,000 U.S. ado­les­cents and young adults. Youths who re­ported high­er “pos­i­tive af­fect,” a meas­ure of hap­pi­ness, or high­er “life sat­is­fac­tion” grew up to earn sig­nif­i­cantly more, they said.

The re­sult is due, in part, to the fact that hap­py peo­ple are more likely to get a de­gree, find work, and get pro­mot­ed quickly, De Neve and Os­wald said. They found that a one-point in­crease in life sat­is­fac­tion on a scale of five, at age of 22, is as­so­ci­at­ed with al­most $2,000 high­er yearly earn­ings at age 29.

The re­search­ers added that even among sib­lings, the hap­pi­er ones tend to go on to earn more. And the re­sults held up af­ter al­low­ing for oth­er fac­tors such as educa­t­ion, phys­i­cal health, ge­net­ic varia­t­ion, IQ, self-es­teem, and cur­rent hap­pi­ness.

Hap­pi­ness al­so seems to in­flu­ence out­comes by lead­ing to more op­ti­mism and ex­tra­ver­sion, and less neu­rot­i­cism, the sci­en­tists said.

“These find­ings have im­por­tant im­plica­t­ions,” De Neve said. For pol­i­cy­makers, he ex­plained, they point to the im­por­tance of pro­mot­ing gen­er­al well-be­ing, not just GDP. For schol­ars, the find­ings sug­gest that hap­pi­ness leads to high­er in­come, and not just the oth­er way around as widely be­lieved.

“Per­haps most im­por­tantly, for the gen­er­al pub­lic – and par­ents in par­tic­u­lar – these find­ings show that the emo­tion­al well-be­ing of chil­dren and ado­les­cents is key to their fu­ture suc­cess, yet anoth­er rea­son to en­sure we cre­ate emo­tion­ally healthy home en­vi­ron­ments.”

The work is published in the Nov. 19 is­sue of the jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Nat­ional Acad­emy of Scien­ces.

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Happy adolescents are more likely to become rich or well-off adults, new research indicates. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve of University College London and Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in the U.K. analysed data from 15,000 U.S. adolescents and young adults. Youths who reported higher “positive affect,” a measure of happiness, or higher “life satisfaction” grew up to earn significantly more, they said. The result is due, in part, to the fact that happy people are more likely to get a degree, find work, and get promoted quickly than their gloomier counterparts, De Neve and Oswald said. They found that a one-point increase in life satisfaction on a scale of five, at age of 22, is associated with almost $2,000 higher yearly earnings at age 29. The researchers said that even in children growing up in the same family, happier youngsters tend to go on to earn higher levels of income. And the results held up after allowing for other factors such as education, physical health, genetic variation, IQ, self-esteem, and current happiness. Happiness also seems to influence outcomes by leading to more optimism and extraversion, and less neuroticism, the scientists said. “These findings have important implications,” De Neve said. For policymakers, he explained, they point to the importance of promoting general well-being, not just GDP. For scholars, the findings suggest that happiness leads to higher income, and not just the other way around as widely assumed. “Perhaps most importantly, for the general public – and parents in particular – these findings show that the emotional well-being of children and adolescents is key to their future success, yet another reason to ensure we create emotionally healthy home environments.”