The pursuit of money is often intertwined with a desire for higher social standing. However, some research implies that gaining respect and status within your own social circle may make you happier, regardless of how much money you make.
Picture: Philippe Put
Many of us think that gaining higher status in society as a whole -- and the wealth that comes with it -- provide a happier life. A study published in Psychological Science concludes that it's less important to become objectively wealthy and more important to gain respect among your existing group of peers.
They refer to this as the "local ladder effect". As the researchers explain, moving up or down in social circles -- for example, by increasing your net worth -- is a situation you quickly adapt to. However, being a well-respected and appreciated member of your group is more fulfilling and less likely to become boring too soon:
I was surprised at how fluid these effects were -- if someone's standing in their local ladder went up or down, so did their happiness, even over the course of 9 months... One of the reasons why money doesn't buy happiness is that people quickly adapt to the new level of income or wealth. Lottery winners, for example, are initially happy but then return to their original level of happiness quickly... It's possible that being respected, having influence, and being socially integrated just never gets old.
In a sense, this is liberating. The need to "climb the ladder" exists within most of us, but society as a whole has a pretty large ladder. The local ladder effect means that you can succeed within your realm and be satisfied, even if you never become a wealthy CEO or a rock star.
For Happiness, Does Money Beat Respect? [PsyBlog]