What is the Price of Happiness? | The BridgeMaker

What is the Price of Happiness?

By on Nov 02, 2011

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. – Dalai Lama

Article written by contributor Daniel Offer of Chit Chat for Facebook.

According to a 2006 report by Mark Easton of the BBC News, the remote Himalayan community of Bhutan has implemented a policy of Gross National Happiness, or GNH.

Similar to the more commonly recognized GDP or Gross Domestic Product, GNH is a government-implemented policy designed to ensure that decisions made by the government and laws enacted by the government are evaluated for their affect on the country’s GNH.

So, what is an individual’s happiness quotient, and how can a person increase their happiness quotient?

Critics argue that the Bhutan government’s implementation of a country-wide pursuit of happiness will mean sacrifices in material, or financial, growth for its people. Given that a majority of the people in Bhutan still live in poverty relative to the rest of the developed world, the critics may be right, but is the pursuit of happiness an unrealistic goal?


The pursuit of happiness

Aristotle claimed “Happiness depends on ourselves,” and he promoted happiness as a central purpose of human life – indeed as an ultimate human goal.

Epicurus, Socrates, Confucius, John Locke, Thomas Aquinas, Mencius, and countless others have debated the role happiness plays in human life, how to attain happiness, and whether the goal of seeking happiness is worthy or not.

The United States’ Declaration of Independence adopted on July 4, 1776, included a sweeping human rights statement for individuals:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

It appears while Bhutan may currently be the only country to have an official happiness policy on the books, the desire for happiness seems to be well-documented as a human goal.

Scientists now claim it’s possible to measure a person’s level of happiness and that relatively high levels of happiness can mean that person’s body is healthier and resilient, resistant to disease. In addition, scientists now believe that people who are happy are harder working, more creative, and live longer.

In fact, scientific research has found that people can learn to develop happiness because happiness is a learned concept just as feelings of helplessness are a learned concept.

The recipe for happiness

Citizens who live in highly developed countries are continually encouraged to work harder to gain more things and that those achievements and things are the ingredients to happiness; however, the scientific research does not support this theory.

Scientists do agree that there is no single key to happiness that can be applied to each person. The recipe for happiness includes a mixture of healthy relationships, personal goals, and a sense of meaning in life.

Scientific studies routinely support the fact that people are the happiest when they are performing acts of kindness (either for themselves or others) or when they are engaged in mindful challenges.

According to a now famous American study by psychologists David Lykken and Auke Tellegen in the mid 1990s, social environment and external factors have relatively little to contribute to a person’s individual rate of happiness.

Princeton economist, Angus Deaton, and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, recently found that a certain level of income can, in effect, ensure a person’s happiness.

So, what is the price of happiness

Surprisingly, the researchers found it to be a relatively modest $75,000 per year. Another independent study from the Keirsey Research found a very similar result: The current price of happiness is about $75,000.

The Princeton team found that daily happiness and emotional well-being rises in lock step as an individual’s income rises to that threshold. After reaching that threshold, a person’s happiness quotient plateaus.

What’s so magical about earning $75K?

While the researchers aren’t certain, they did have a number of hypotheses to support their research findings. The researchers surmised that at $75K, a person has what they need to live comfortably while also having enough money left over for pleasurable activities that feed their creative minds, but those earning lower incomes have a hard time overcoming common setbacks such as divorce or illnesses.

While overwhelming amounts of money don’t appear to generate more happiness, earning the baseline income does give an individual enough to cover their needs with a little extra left for playing.

What do you think? What’s your price for happiness? It is $75k per year. It is more? It is less? Or, does happiness have nothing to do with money at all?

More from Daniel Offer

Daniel runs and operates the popular Facebook login app “Chit Chat for Facebook.” This Facebook software application facilitates provides the benefits of Facebook chat from the convenience of your desktop.

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  • Daniel Offer

    Thanks for your comments. I agree with you Dia, it’s very much an internal belief thing – and also dependant on the cost of living within your country as you mention Lorrae.

    The article looks at things from an “average” perspective. My personal view is that money is an enabler rather than be be all and end all itself.

  • Dia

    Hi Alex and Daniel,

    Happiness is an internal thing, but it is enhanced when we achieve our goals, become wealthy, have healthy relationships etc…. At least, this is my philosophy. 😉 I can understand why most people equate happiness with money as money is very much needed to be able to do what you want to do and live a good and excellent life. Thanks for sharing

  • All,

    Thanks for weighing in on Daniel’s post. I believe happiness is an “inside job,” as David points out. Additionally, while money doesn’t buy or guarantee happiness, it does provide a wider selection of choices. It’s then up to us to convert these choices into things that make us happy.


  • I truly believe that there can be no happiness apart from God. Love alone can make us happy, and that kind of love can be found in Him who loves us most. 😉