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Study finds money can buy you happiness

Money can buy happiness according to Cambridge University. In a study of almost 77,000 bank transactions, they found people who spent more on purchases that matched their personality were happiest.

The study matched spending categories on the widely recognised "Big Five" personality traits - openness to experience (artistic versus traditional), conscientiousness (self-controlled vs easygoing), extraversion (outgoing vs reserved), agreeableness (compassionate vs competitive), and neuroticism (prone to stress vs stable).

For example, "eating out in pubs" was rated as an extroverted and low conscientiousness (impulsive) spending category, whereas "charities" and "pets" were rated as agreeable spending categories.

The researchers then compared the participants' actual purchases to their personalities using this scale, and found that people generally spent more money on products that match their personality. For example, a highly extroverted person spent approximately £52 more each year on "pub nights" than an introverted person.

Similarly, a highly conscientiousness person spent £124 more annually on "health and fitness" than a person low in conscientiousness.

What makes people happy?

  • Extroverts - Eating out and going to the pub.
  • Agreeable - Contributing to charity.
  • Conscientious - Settling bills and keeping fit.
Extroverts like heading out to the pub. Credit: PA

Our findings suggest that spending money on products that help us express who we are as individuals could turn out to be as important to our well-being as finding the right job, the right neighbourhood or even the right friends and partners.

By developing a more nuanced understanding of the links between spending and happiness, we hope to be able to provide more personalised advice on how to find happiness through the little consumption choices we make every day.

– Sandra Matz, PhD candidate in the Psychology Department of the University of Cambridge