Money do not bring happiness. Researchers challenge the idea that only people in rich countries can be happy

Not only people living in rich societies can be happy. Many low-income people in poor societies around the world are happy with their lives, or so a new study suggests.

People in poor societies who are very satisfied with their own lives – Freepik Photo

Although previous studies linked economic growth to well-being, even the World Happiness Report, the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) collaborated with McGill University in Canada to challenge this view, reports Euronews.

Thus, scientists have studied small-scale societies, including indigenous peoples. They say that previous studies have neglected these societies and produced skewed results because they only focused on the responses of citizens in industrialized societies.

Many very low-income populations have high average levels of life satisfaction, comparable to those in rich countries, the researchers say. This is because, in the analyzed societies, the exchange of money plays a minimal role in everyday life, and livelihoods depend directly on nature.

How the study was conducted

The scientists examined the responses of nearly 3,000 members of indigenous peoples and local communities in 19 sites distributed globally. Only 64% of the interviewed households had cash income.

The study shows that “high average levels of life satisfaction, comparable to those in rich countries, are reported for many populations that have very low monetary incomes“.

The average life satisfaction in the societies analyzed was 6.8 out of 10, although, in most sites, people have an income of less than $1,000 a year. Moreover, in four of the 19 target societies the average life satisfaction was very high (>8).

The current consensus is that the wealth of nations is closely associated with the fact that the inhabitants can live their lives close to their ideal.” , the scientists said. But if that were the case, “achieving a high level of life satisfaction for all people would probably require much higher rates of material extraction than at present“. That would mean sacrificing ecosystems, and efforts would “probably exceed” planetary boundaries, according to the researchers.

People instead measure their happiness against other benchmarks, not necessarily related to income, but rather how their lives are performing within the community.

Poor but happy people

Tibetans and other ethnic groups in Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture are the people who reported their life satisfaction to be at the highest level (10).

The Amazonian indigenous people, who live near the Juruá River in Brazil, and the Bulgan soum people in Mongolia, home to nearly 6,000 Kazakhs and other ethnic groups and 100,000 livestock, respectively, are the second- and third-ranked societies in terms of degree of happiness.

At the same time, a large proportion of Pai Tavytera indigenous people in Paraguay say their life satisfaction is very high (8), which is typical of rich Scandinavian countries in other surveys.

This study correlates happiness with living in nature, whether it's snow-capped mountains or the rainforest.

It is not the first time that the money-happiness relationship is not confirmed by studies. Last year's Eurostat data showed that Romania shares second place with Poland and Finland, in the ranking of the happiest countries in Europe. The European chart suggests that more money does not necessarily mean more happiness.

Factors such as age, education level, family and financial situation might be indicators of overall satisfaction rather than wealth. Also, where we live can influence our state of contentment. On the other hand, the data show that in homes where children live, the degree of happiness is higher.