So, Maybe Money Can Buy Happiness

In our sort-of-egalitarian society, phrases like “poor but happy” and “poor little rich kid” are treasured clichés, helping the non-rich believe they’re as content as their wealthier compatriots. But Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index polling in the first three quarters of 2010 finds income does correlate positively with happiness (see the chart), at least when people are asked about how they felt “a lot of the day yesterday.”

The disparities reflect more than a passing mood. The same polling found 29 percent of the under-$24,000 cohort saying they’ve been “diagnosed with depression,” vs. 15 percent of the $24,000-89,999s and 10 percent of the $90,000-plus bracket. If anything, this understates the gap, as low-income respondents are less likely to get medical care and, hence, to receive diagnoses.

Other health factors also contribute to the gaps in happiness, stress and the like. For instance, 16 percent of the low-income respondents said they’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, vs. 10 percent of the middle-income and 7 percent of the upper-income cohorts.

The pattern was similar for high blood pressure: 36 percent of the low-income cohort have been diagnosed with this condition, vs. 29 percent of the middle- and 24 percent of the upper-income respondents.