The study was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of [email protected] me on Twitter @LATkarenkaplan and “like” Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.
The researchers checked in with the volunteers each weekend to see how they felt after they had spent the money.
As expected, the volunteers reported less time-related stress in the week when they made a time-saving purchase than in the week when they bought a material good.
The paper looked at the level of negative emotion reported by participants in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics — a long-running longitudinal survey of thousands of Americans.
People were asked how often they experienced negative feelings like nervousness, hopelessness or restlessness in the last 30 days (K9 scores).
Previous studies have found a correlation between money and happiness, but the Case Western study used the data on individuals over time to demonstrate that income can a reduction in negative emotions.
It also found that an increase in income can reduce the incidence of serious mental illness (defined as a score of 10 or higher).
Just in case their original question was too narrow, the researchers conducted a second survey that asked more than 1,800 Americans whether they spent money to buy themselves “more free time.”This time, half of the survey-takers answered yes.
These folks spent between and per month, on average, so that others would handle chores like cooking, shopping and “household maintenance.” As before, the people who bought themselves time were more satisfied with life than those who didn’t.
The difference the marginal dollar makes in reducing negative emotions starts to fall off around ,000, is very low by 0,000 and hits zero around 0,000.
Those results are remarkably similar to the correlations reported in a 2010 study that found that people don't get happier after ,000 a year.