Researches analyzed data gathered in the first Gallup World Poll, which included more than 136,000 people in 132 countries who were surveyed in 2005-2006. The respondents, who rated their lives on a scale of zero (worst) to 10 (best), were asked about positive or negative emotions experienced the previous day, whether they felt respected, whether they had family and friends they could count on in an emergency and how free they felt to choose their daily activities, learn new things or do what they do best.
Like other studies have found, the analysis revealed that life satisfaction -- the belief that your life is going well -- increases as income increases, individually and in the country overall. But researchers also found that although overall positive feelings increased somewhat along with rising income, these feelings were much more strongly linked with other factors, such as feeling respected, enjoying autonomy and social support from friends and family and having a fulfilling job.
"The public always wonders: Does money make you happy? This study shows that it all depends on how you define happiness because, if you look at life satisfaction, how you evaluate your life as a whole, you see a pretty strong correlation around the world between income and happiness," Ed Diener, a senior scientist with the Gallup Organization and a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Illinois, said in a university news release. "On the other hand, it's pretty shocking how small the correlation is with positive feelings and enjoying yourself."
According to Diener, this was the first study to differentiate between life satisfaction and day-to-day positive or negative feelings that people experience.
"Everybody has been looking at just life satisfaction and income," he said. "And while it is true that getting richer will make you more satisfied with your life, it may not have the big impact we thought on enjoying life."