MIND
December 24, 2009

Can't Buy Me Happiness

Therapy is far more effective than money (even a raise!) at increasing happiness, according to a new study.

A new study published in the journal Health Economics, Policy and Law finds that therapy is so much more effective than money at increasing happiness that it works out to being about 32 times more cost effective. The researchers say that money is often overvalued in our society and may have serious public health implications.

The study, led by author Chris Boyle at the University of Warwick, (UK) surveyed studies from various disciplines – medicine, economics, psychology, and law – to try to quantify just how much happiness was derived from psychotherapy versus financial means. The team found that therapy sessions whose final cost was just over $1,300 improved mental health so effectively that it would take being given a raise equivalent to over $41,000 to see similar effects.

'The benefits of having good mental health,...are often not fully appreciated and people do not realize the powerful effect that psychological therapy, such as non−directive counseling, can have on improving our well−being.'

"Of course if you win £40 million on the lottery it is going to change your life massively but there will be down sides attached to this,” said Boyce.

Given the practice of awarding individuals financial compensation after psychologically distressing events, the results indicate that this custom, though commonplace in many countries, may need to be rethought. Boyce points out that “[o]ften the importance of money for improving our well−being and bringing greater happiness is vastly over−valued in our societies. The benefits of having good mental health, on the other hand, are often not fully appreciated and people do not realize the powerful effect that psychological therapy, such as non−directive counseling, can have on improving our well−being.”

The authors write that “[m]ental health is deteriorating across the world – improvements to mental health care might be a more efficient way to increase the health and happiness of our nations than pure income growth.” The study’s findings are particularly relevant in light of the economic uncertainty that is currently stretching across the globe.

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