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Private Wealth and Happiness

A Research Synthesis Using an Online Findings-Archive

Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS,volume 76)


There is a lot of research on the relationship between income and happiness, but little research into the relationship between wealth and happiness. Knowledge about the effects of wealth on happiness is required for informed decision making in matters of saving and consumption. In order to answer the questions of how and to what extent wealth relates to happiness, we take stock of the available research findings on this issue, covering 161 research findings observed in 113 studies. We use a new method of research synthesis, in which research findings are described in a comparable format and entered in an online ‘findings archive’, the World Database of Happiness, to which links are made from this text. This technique allows a condensed presentation of research findings, while providing readers access to full details. We found mostly positive relationships between assets and happiness, and negative relationships between debt and happiness. The size of the relationships is small, variations in wealth explain typically less than 1% of the variation in individual happiness. The correlations are slightly reduced when controlled for income and socio-demographic factors. The few longitudinal studies suggest a causal effect of wealth on happiness. We found little differences across methods used and populations studied. Together, the available research findings imply that building wealth will typically add to your happiness, though not by very much.


  • Life satisfaction
  • Consumption
  • Savings
  • Assets
  • Debt
  • Wealth
  • Research synthesis

Parts of this text drawn on earlier papers by Veenhoven and co-authors on research synthesis using the World Database of Happiness.

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Fig. 2.1
Fig. 2.2
Fig. 2.3


  1. 1.

    Knight et al. (2009) (

  2. 2.

    Knight and Gunatilaka (2014) (

  3. 3.

    Mollenkopf and Kaspar (2005):

  4. 4.

    Knight et al. 2009:

  5. 5.

    We exclude operating assets as they contain both types of assets financial and real.

  6. 6.

    Shu and Zhu (2009) in China, Mollenkopf and Kaspar (2005) in six nations.

  7. 7.

    Rossi and Weber (1996).

  8. 8.

    Bucchianeri (2011).


Publications to which an internet address is added report one or more studies, findings of which were included in this research synthesis. Use control+click to see a standardized description of the study in the World Database of Happiness.

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Correspondence to Antje Jantsch .

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1.1 Appendix A: Terms for Research Techniques Used in the Header of the Tables

Research design
Cross-sectional: same time correlation
Longitudinal; over-time correlation
Statistical analysis
Bi-variate: correlation between two variables (wealth and happiness)
Partial: result of a multi-variate analysis in which the effect of possible spurious variables is filtered away
OLS: Ordinary Least Square Analysis
OPL: Ordered Probit Logit
IV: Instrumental Variable Analysis

1.2 Appendix B: Meaning of Signs Used in Cells of the Tables

  =positive correlation, statistically significant
+ =positive correlation, not statistically significant
0 =direction of correlation not reported and not statistically significant
  =negative correlation, statistically significant
=negative correlation, not statistically significant
−/+ =positive and negative correlations obtained with different sets of control variables
=linear positive relationship
=N shaped relationship
=curvilinear shape, pattern of diminishing utility
C>A =correlation with Cognitive component of happiness
  stronger than with Affective component
O>A =correlation with Overall happiness stronger than with Affective component
O>M =correlation with Overall happiness stronger than with Mixed measure of happiness
  1. Al these signs involve a link to a finding page with full detail in the World Database of Happiness Use control+click to view the page

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Jantsch, A., Veenhoven, R. (2019). Private Wealth and Happiness. In: Brulé, G., Suter, C. (eds) Wealth(s) and Subjective Well-Being. Social Indicators Research Series, vol 76. Springer, Cham.

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