It’s an age-old question, does money really bring happiness? While many joys can’t purchased, money can give access to things that can lead to happiness.
Many of us strive to do better in our careers to obtain a higher salary, which we assume will lead to a more comfortable lifestyle – but do higher salaries actually equal happiness?
We firstly mined and then cross-matched ONS data from Average Weekly Earnings by Industry and National Well-being (both October 2019 releases) to understand if there were correlations between income and happiness. The infographic showing the results can be seen below:
Industries with Correlations Between Average Weekly Salary and Happiness
Happiness was calculated by asking adults aged 16 and over to rate on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 was not at all and 10 was completely happy, how happy they were feeling.
The top-scoring industries with high correlations between happiness and average weekly earnings were as follows:
- Retail Trade and Repairs – 92.01%
- Accommodation and Food Service Activities – 88.91%
- Education – 88.59%
- Administrative and Support Service Activities – 87.4%
- Manufacturing – Engineering and Allied Industries – 86.3%
These industries showed strong correlations between earnings and happiness. This means that as earnings increase, happiness tends to as well.
The industries with the lowest correlations were:
- Mining and Quarrying – 22.15%
- Professional, Scientific & Technical Activities – 26.18%
- Manufacturing – Chemicals and Man-made Fibres – 33.22%
- Real Estate Activities – 33.68%
- Financial & Insurance Activities – 34.30%
While specific data as to why this happiness was so low or high was not provided, we can speculate. Many careers, such as mining and quarrying, can be highly stressful and demanding roles. Although these industries can often pay a decent salary, the satisfaction levels may not increase due to this as the intensity of these roles can often lead to strain regardless of the weekly earnings. The impact on the health of an individual working in mining and quarrying would be a good example of this.
This does not imply that industries with the highest correlations are not stressful roles, rather any unhappiness can be lessened with the benefit of a higher salary.
Overall, skill, trade and administrative based jobs see higher correlations with happiness and weekly salaries.
Anxiety was scored in the same way to happiness, by asking adults aged 16 and over to rate on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 was not at all and 10 was completely anxious, how anxious they were feeling
The top-scoring industries with a correlation between anxiety and average weekly earnings were as follows:
- Retail Trade and Repairs – 74.52%
- Manufacturing-Other – 72.07%
- Manufacturing – Engineering and Allied Industries – 70.67%
- Education – 68.51%
- Accommodation and Food Service Activities – 68.04%
Although these are not as strong as the 80%+ correlations that are shown against happiness and average weekly earnings, there is still something to be taken from these results.
Happiness is strongest with average weekly earnings in retail and trade repairs, but this is also the highest correlation with anxiety. Most of the industries that reflect happiness, also reflect more anxiety.
Anxiety is not to be mistaken with unhappiness and you can have both alongside each other. We can hypothesise from these results that as wages increase, job responsibility increases and can cause more anxiety in the role.
Interestingly, health and social work scored the lowest correlation with anxiety at 53.40%. This industry is infamous for having high stress and anxiety levels but these results may show that anxiety does not increase with weekly wages.
Those That Reported as Living Comfortably or Completely Satisfied with Income Reported Higher Levels of Anxiety.
Respondent income was scored on the same scoring system as happiness (so is subjective to how happy they are about their level of income instead of actual income which is scored objectively in ‘average weekly earnings’) and was broken up into:
- Completely satisfied
- Mostly satisfied
- Somewhat satisfied
- Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
- Somewhat dissatisfied
- Mostly dissatisfied
- Completely dissatisfied
Managing financially also followed the same scoring system and was broken up into:
- Living comfortably
- Doing alright
- Just about getting by
- Finding it quite difficult
- Finding it very difficult
Those who ranked themselves as ‘completely satisfied’ with their income showed a correlation with higher levels of anxiety at 65.68%.
Those who reported as ‘living comfortably’ reported an 89.97% correlation with anxiety.
With this, we can see that the higher the earnings, most likely from roles with higher responsibility and stress levels, the higher the anxiety.
Again, this does not correlate with happiness but we can conclude that for 65-80% of those who live comfortably or are completely satisfied with their income, the higher their levels of anxiety.
Many companies throughout the UK provide bonuses to boost staff productivity and morale, however, it appears these bonuses may not be providing increasing feelings of happiness.
When workers were surveyed regarding if bonuses correlated with happiness, the correlation percentages were small and relatively inconclusive.
The industry with the highest correlation between bonuses and happiness was the construction industry, despite being the top scorer, showed at only 41%.
This could be interpreted in a few ways. Perhaps the bonus sums are not high enough to justify a change in attitude or income satisfaction may be high enough that some extra will not bring elation.
It could also be that performance-based bonuses can cause more stress in the workplace as employees push themselves to meet targets to achieve these. The outcome may not justify the means.
Income Satisfaction and Happiness
You may be forgiven in believing industries who previously reported a correlation between higher weekly and happiness would also report a high correlation with satisfaction with income and happiness.
Higher earnings do not necessarily equal income satisfaction. Those on more modest incomes can still report higher levels of income satisfaction and happiness.
The industries that had the largest correlations between income satisfaction and happiness are:
- Retail Trade and Repairs – 87.81%
- Administrative and Support Service Activities – 87.74%
- Education – 85.71%
- Accommodation and Food Service Service Activities – 84.87%
- Health and Social Work – 81.98%
The industries that had the lowest correlations between income satisfaction and happiness are:
- Mining and Quarrying – 9.28%
- Professional, Scientific & Technical Activities – 24.15%
- Manufacturing – Chemicals and Man-made Fibres – 29.18%
- Financial & Insurance Activities – 29.46%
- Real Estate Activities – 29.95%
Changes in income have very little correlation on happiness for mining and quarrying, likely because of the perceived poorer working conditions that remain regardless of income changes and the impact on the health of the worker.
Overall, retail trade and repairs show to have the highest correlations between income satisfaction and average weekly earnings, as well as income satisfaction and happiness but also showed high correlations with anxiety.
We can conclude from this, money can equal happiness but only in certain industries, as long as we are also willing to take on higher levels of anxiety.
Industries surveyed: definitions:
- AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY & FISHING
Crop & animal production, hunting & related service activities
Forestry & logging
Fishing & aquaculture
- MINING & QUARRYING
Mining of coal & lignite
Extraction of crude petroleum & natural gas
Mining of metal ores
Other mining & quarrying
Mining support service activities
Manufacture of food products
Manufacture of beverages
Manufacture of tobacco products
Manufacture of textiles
Manufacture of wearing apparel
Manufacture of leather & related products
Manufacture of wood & of products of wood & cork, except furniture; manufacture of articles of straw & plaiting materials
Manufacture of paper & paper products
Printing & reproduction of recorded media
Manufacture of coke & refined petroleum products
Manufacture of chemicals & chemical products
Manufacture of basic pharmaceutical products & pharmaceutical preparations
Manufacture of rubber & plastic products
Manufacture of other non-metallic mineral products
Manufacture of basic metals
Manufacture of fabricated metal products, except machinery & equipment
Manufacture of computer, electronic & optical products
Manufacture of electrical equipment
Manufacture of machinery & equipment n.e.c.
Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers & semi-trailers
Manufacture of other transport equipment
Manufacture of furniture
Repair & installation of machinery & equipment
- ELECTRICITY, GAS, STEAM & AIR CONDITIONING SUPPLY
ELECTRICITY, GAS, STEAM & AIR CONDITIONING SUPPLY
- WATER SUPPLY; SEWERAGE, WASTE MANAGEMENT & REMEDIATION ACTIVITIES
Water collection, treatment & supply
Waste collection, treatment & disposal activities; materials recovery
Remediation activities & other waste management services
Construction of buildings
Specialised construction activities
- WHOLESALE & RETAIL TRADE; REPAIR OF MOTOR VEHICLES & MOTORCYCLES<
Wholesale & retail trade & repair of motor vehicles & motorcycles
Wholesale trade, except of motor vehicles & motorcycles
Retail trade, except of motor vehicles & motorcycles
- TRANSPORTATION & STORAGE
L& transport & transport via pipelines
Warehousing & support activities for transportation
Postal & courier activities
- ACCOMMODATION & FOOD SERVICE ACTIVITIES
Food & beverages service activities
- INFORMATION & COMMUNICATION
Motion picture, video & television programme production, sound recording & music publishing activities
Programming & broadcasting activities
Computer programming, consultancy & related activities
Information service activities
- FINANCIAL & INSURANCE ACTIVITIES
Financial service activities, except insurance & pension funding
Insurance, reinsurance & pension funding, except compulsory social security
Activities auxiliary to financial services & insurance activities
- REAL ESTATE ACTIVITIES
Real estate activities
- PROFESSIONAL, SCIENTIFIC & TECHNICAL ACTIVITIES
Legal & accounting activities
Activities of head offices; management consultancy activities
Architectural & engineering activities; technical testing & analysis
Scientific research & development
Advertising & market research
Other professional, scientific & technical activities
- ADMINISTRATIVE & SUPPORT SERVICE ACTIVITIES
Rental & leasing activities
Travel agency, tour operator & other reservation service & related activities
Security & investigation activities
Services to buildings & landscape activities
Office administrative, office support & other business support activities
- PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION & DEFENCE; COMPULSORY SOCIAL SECURITY
PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION & DEFENCE; COMPULSORY SOCIAL SECURITY
- HUMAN HEALTH & SOCIAL WORK ACTIVITIES
Human health activities
Residential care activities
Social work activities without accommodation
- ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT & RECREATION
Creative, arts & entertainment activities
Libraries, archives, museums & other cultural activities
Gambling & betting activities
Sports activities & amusement & recreation activities
- OTHER SERVICE ACTIVITIES
Activities of membership organisations
Repair of computers & personal & household goods
Other personal service activities