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Giving Away Money Can Buy Happiness

March 24, 2008
The sad irony about money, Dunn notes, is that when people come to view it as a route to happiness, they are less likely to give it away.
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Here’s a riddle: You’re miserable without it, but once you get it, you’ll be happier if you give it away. What is it?

The answer, according to a study in this week’s Science 1, is money. The more cash people dole out to charity and to friends, the happier they tend to be.

“We’ve understood that happiness and money go together,” says Robert Biswas-Diener, a psychologist at the Center for Applied Positive Psychology in Coventry, who was not involved in the research. It is known, for example, that the more people make, the happier on average they are (although this effect is actually remarkably small, particularly among people who have enough money to meet their basic needs). “The next level is to ask: how much happiness does it buy? How might it buy happiness?”

“We’re not talking about Bill Gates donating millions of dollars to charity; we’re talking about relatively modest amounts of money,” says Dunn, “Everyone could stand to give away a little more than they do.”

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