Money makes you happy – but only if you have lots more than your friends and neighbours.
Owning the house of your dreams, the car you always longed for and having millions in the bank doesn’t stop that desire to keep up with the Joneses, researchers have found.
And if the Joneses have more than you do, you’ll be miserable.
It seems envy at being lower in the social pecking order tarnishes the satisfaction of being well off.
Happy: But money counts for little unless you are richer than your friends
Psychologists looked at the happiness levels of 10,000 people who took part in the British Household Panel Survey and compared these with their income.
The results showed that although salary is important to a certain extent, a person’s social standing or status matters more.
And that’s where the Joneses come in. ‘The standard of living has gone up for each individual over the past 40 years but it has gone up for everyone,’ said researcher Dr Chris Boyce from the University of Warwick.
‘Our cars are faster now but our neighbours have faster cars too, so we haven’t got that advantage over people close to us.
‘Without the biggest home, or the fastest car then it doesn’t give you that same excitement as it would have.
‘Earning £1million a year appears not to be enough to make you happy if you know your friends all earn £2million a year.’
Dr Boyce feared many of us are racing to earn more money at the expense of building strong relationships.
As Hyacinth Bucket discovers in the BBC comedy Keeping Up Appearances, trying to outdo the neighbours usually ends in tears.
‘If everyone has to work hard to be better than other people, it suggests that if we all worked a little bit less we could find the time to do things that might be a bit more productive for our wellbeing,’ said Dr Boyce, an economic psychologist.
‘For instance, spending more time with our friends, looking after our mental health, spending more time at leisure.’
His findings, published in the journal Psychological Science, make disturbing reading – especially if you happen to be a lottery winner.
‘If you win a fantastic amount of and move away, all of a sudden-you are surrounded by people who are very wealthy,’ he said.
‘So you have ended up with a rank against your neighbours that was just as low as it was previously.
‘If you stay in the same house, you move up a couple of ranks but other people have to move down to make room for you.
‘You will find yourself in a situation where there is a lot of envy and jealousy.
‘You will have made everyone else’s lives miserable.’
It’s not the first time we’ve been warned that striving to keep up with the Joneses is bad for our health.
Previous research found those who feel eclipsed by their friends’ material success are more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, ulcers and high blood pressure.
Sungguh benar sabda Nabi saw:
عَنْ اَبِيْ هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُـوْلُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : اُنْظُرُوا إِلَى مَنْ هُوَ أسْفَلَ مِنْكُمْ وَلاَ تَنْظُرُوا إِلَى مَنْ هُوَ فَوْقَكُمْ ؛ فَهُوَ أجْدَرُ أنْ لاَ تَزْدَرُوا نِعْمَةَ الله عَلَيْكُمْ
متفقٌ عَلَيْهِ ، وَهَذَا لَفْظُ مُسْلِمٍ
“Hendaklah kalian memperhatikan orang (yang keadaan materinya) di bawahmu, dan janganlah kalian memperhatikan (yang keadaan materinya) di atas kalian. Bahwa yang demikian itu, menyebabkan kalian tidak meremehkan nikmat Allah atas kalian.” (Muttafaqun ‘Alaihi)