What Can Make You Happier Than Money?

Personality changes linked to changes in well being

(RxWiki News) You might believe that a better job will make you happier - or more money - or a marriage proposal. You might be right, but a new study suggests that the greatest source of happiness comes from within.

The study concludes that an individual’s personality changes over time, and it is these small positive changes which bring about the largest changes in personal well-being and life satisfaction.

"Ask your therapist about personality improvements."

"We found that our personalities can and do change over time – something that was considered improbable until now – and that these personality changes are strongly related to changes in our well-being,” says Chris Boyce, Ph.D., Research Fellow from the University of Manchester's School of Psychological Sciences.

In fact, the research team found that external factors such as marital status and income level were not as closely related to well-being as personality.

"Compared with external factors, such as a pay rise, getting married or finding employment, personality change is just as likely and contributes much more to improvements in our personal well-being," adds Boyce.

For the study, 8,625 people answered a questionnaire 2 times over a 4 year period. The questionnaire measured life-satisfaction and personality against external changes such as employment, income, and marital status.

The researches assessed five dimensions of personality: openness-to-experiences, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Previous studies have asserted that personality is accountable for up to 35% of individual differences in life-satisfaction. Compared to 4% for income and employment status, and 1-4% for marital status. However, previous research assumed that personality was fixed, and therefore focused on external factors.

"The focus of many well-being studies in economics is on how changes to our circumstances, such as a higher income, getting married or a different job might influence our well-being. The influence of our personality is often ignored in these types of studies in the belief that our personality can't or doesn't change. We show that personality can and does change and, not only is it more likely to change than an income increase, it contributes much more to changes in our well-being.”

"Our research suggests that by focusing on who we are and how we relate to the world around us has the potential to unlock vast improvements in our wellbeing. The findings have implications for well-being policy ... and how best to help individuals and nations improve their outlook on life." concluded Boyce.

The study was published online on Feb. 29th, 2012 in the journal Social Indicators Research and was funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. 

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Review Date: 
March 6, 2012