Money Can't Buy Happiness

Or can it? I'm sure most of us have heard that money doesn't buy happiness and that money can't buy you love. The problem is that it isn't entirely true. For starters, to be happy you need to be alive, don't you? And to be alive you need food, water, shelter... And all those things cost money.


source: Picpedia

Okay, maybe that was a bit extreme and "on the nose". However, it is certainly true that living in poverty makes it a lot harder to be happy and, if not to receive, to give love. There have also been studies done that show a strong correlation between poverty and IQ, where people's IQ drops after they've fallen into poverty. Extended periods of living in poverty causes "bad stress", with the body producing high levels of cortisol, the "stress hormone". There's also "good stress", which is the result of self-inflicted pressure in relation to goals one sets for themselves. "Bad stress" is the result of circumstantial pressures related to mostly economical worries, like "how am I going to put food on the table". One of the effects of these heightened stress-levels is that people become less patient, which in turn affects their ability to make good decisions on important long term issues, like career planning or their health; poverty causes bad stress, which causes an inability to make important life-choices that could lift them out of poverty. It's a nasty vicious circle...

We already know that the relation between mother and child starts in the womb: mothers who have severe addictions on alcohol or drugs, are more likely to give birth to children who inherit these dependencies. This rule also applies to mothers who suffer from heightened stress levels related to poverty; their "cortisol-affliction" is inherited by the child, whose brain doesn't develop as good as a child whose mother doesn't suffer from bad stress. They generally also know less words, because their parents didn't, couldn't read to them as much; books cost money after all. Children who are raised in poverty start their education with a deficit compared to their peers who come from wealthier families. Poverty causes pain, worry, sadness, and anger:

Pain, worry, sadness, and anger (reported as experienced the day before or not) are also all significantly higher among low income cohorts than among wealthy ones, while reported satisfaction with life as a whole is significantly lower, according to our analysis of Gallup data. [...] There are also big differences in reports of chronic suffering across income groups, according to a recent study by Ronald Anderson. Those with incomes below the poverty line were twice as likely to report chronic pain and mental distress as those earning $75,000 or more, and three to five times more likely to have extreme pain or extreme distress.
source: Brookings

The differences in happiness, stress and physical ailments between rich and poor are present within countries, but also between countries: the reported levels of happiness are also lower in poor countries than in rich ones. To me, as a socialist and anti-capitalist, this is a tragedy; there are no good reasons for poverty to even exist anymore. We're wasting so much human potential by allowing for poverty to persevere when we're technologically and scientifically as advanced as we are right now. I've said it many times before and I'll repeat it here: we have too much of everything on this planet for the number of people who are alive on this planet. There is more food than there are mouths to feed, more empty buildings than homeless people, more cars than we can possibly sell, and there are heaps of electronic devices like mobile phones, PC's and household appliances that will never be used. There is no problem of quantity, only a problem of distribution, and we've decided on a socioeconomic model that distributes the lion's share of the available wealth to a handful of people. We would all benefit from the eradication of poverty, for money does buy happiness...

The psychological consequences of poverty

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