wealth, income, happiness, subjective well-being, life satisfaction


This paper explores the literature regarding the relationship between wealth and happiness in cross-cultural or international contexts. A search on several online databases found 23 articles relevant to the topic. The authors studied this wealth-happiness relationship using varying definitions of subjective well-being (SWB) and life satisfaction to measure happiness, and using absolute income, relative income, consumption, or national income to measure wealth. This review discusses several theories that discuss the relationship between wealth and happiness and the causal factors that may explain it. These include the fulfillment of basic needs, social comparison, and the presence of certain demographic markers or characteristics such as psychosocial prosperity, health, personality, education, consumption, and materialism. The results of the review and the existing literature have significant limitations, because of the difficulty in comparing cultures that value and define happiness and wealth in different ways and because of the different measurements of happiness and wealth between researchers. I conclude that further experimental, cross-national research is needed in order to establish a causal relationship between wealth and reported happiness.

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