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Researchers May Have Pinpointed the Exact Amount of Money You Need to Be Happy

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Humanity has been debating the truthfulness in that old adage "money can't buy happiness" for centuries, but it seems we still don't have a concrete answer. Some research has found that it does, but only up to $75,000 a year (circa 2010). Other studies have found that it does, as long as you're using it to buy yourself time, by paying for things like housekeeping services, or to purchase consumer goods that you think fit your personality. Now, psychologists from Purdue University are wading into the debate with a new study on money and life satisfaction, finding that people are most satisfied when pulling in a salary of $95,000 a year (per person, that is, not per family).

The study, published earlier this year in Nature Human Behavior, analyzed data from the Gallup World Poll, which includes a representative sample of participants from 164 countries. They were looking to define a point of "income satiation," the point at which more money doesn't make you any happier. It examined responses that had to do with subjective well-being regarding "life evaluation" (as in, where do you sit on a scale of the worst life possible to the best life possible?) and emotional well-being (how did you feel yesterday?).

The researchers found that the ceiling at which more money doesn't provide any more life satisfaction was $95,000, on average. After that, in fact, subjective well-being started to fall as income went up. (Just as Biggie warned us.) Emotional satisfaction, on the other hand, came slightly cheaper—positive emotions were correlated with more money up to $60,000, and negative emotions decreased as salary increased, up until $75,000.

Obviously, though, location matters. A salary of $95,000 can buy you a different life in Thailand than in Sweden. In Western Europe and Scandinavia, the ceiling at which more money begets more problems is $100,000, while in North America, it's $105,000. Australia and New Zealand had the largest average ceiling, at $125,000, while Latin America and the Caribbean had the lowest, at $40,000.

It also varied across education levels, possibly because of different income aspirations and social comparisons that come up when people have, for instance, a law degree versus an associate's degree.

All that said, some comparisons at the very highest income levels were hard to make because of a lack of data—for example, the survey only included 99 people in Sub-Saharan Africa with incomes above $100,000, and only 1311 participants in Western Europe and Scandinavia with incomes over $200,000. The study also couldn't control for the different costs of living within regions—an American paying rent in New York City and an American paying rent in Fort Lauderdale probably don't have the same idea of what an ideal salary would be.

In other words, this study provides yet another piece of evidence that money does, in fact, impact happiness, but only up to a point. Considering the limitations of happiness studies like these, though, we may never be able to figure out exactly what that point is.

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Medicine
Charles Dickens Museum Highlights the Author's Contributions to Science and Medicine

Charles Dickens is celebrated for his verbose prose and memorable opening lines, but lesser known are his contributions to science—particularly the field of medicine.

A new exhibition at London’s Charles Dickens Museum—titled "Charles Dickens: Man of Science"—is showcasing the English author’s scientific side. In several instances, the writer's detailed descriptions of medical conditions predated and sometimes even inspired the discovery of several diseases, The Guardian reports.

In his novel Dombey and Son, the character of Mrs. Skewton was paralyzed on her right side and unable to speak. Dickens was the first person to document this inexplicable condition, and a scientist later discovered that one side of the brain was largely responsible for speech production. "Fat boy" Joe, a character in The Pickwick Papers who snored loudly while sleeping, later lent his namesake to Pickwickian Syndrome, otherwise known as obesity hypoventilation syndrome.

A figurine of Fat Boy Joe
Courtesy of the Charles Dickens Museum

Dickens also wrote eloquently about the symptoms of tuberculosis and dyslexia, and some of his passages were used to teach diagnosis to students of medicine.

“Dickens is an unbelievably acute observer of human behaviors,” museum curator Frankie Kubicki told The Guardian. “He captures these behaviors so perfectly that his descriptions can be used to build relationships between symptoms and disease.”

Dickens was also chummy with some of the leading scientists of his day, including Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, and chemist Jane Marcet, and the exhibition showcases some of the writer's correspondence with these notable figures. Beyond medicine, Dickens also contributed to the fields of chemistry, geology, and environmental science.

Less scientifically sound was the author’s affinity for mesmerism, a form of hypnotism introduced in the 1770s as a method of controlling “animal magnetism,” a magnetic fluid which proponents of the practice believed flowed through all people. Dickens studied the methods of mesmerism and was so convinced by his powers that he later wrote, “I have the perfect conviction that I could magnetize a frying-pan.” A playbill of Animal Magnetism, an 1857 production that Dickens starred in, is also part of the exhibit.

A play script from Animal Magnetism
Courtesy of the Charles Dickens Museum

Located at 48-49 Doughty Street in London, the exhibition will be on display until November 11, 2018.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Health
Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
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There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

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