Of all the things that we believe make us happy, money has always played an important role in our life in society. And to understand why, we must start from the fact that we currently live in the so-called “welfare state”. This has to do with the economic development of countries, but… Is it really true that money brings happiness?

The relationship between money and happiness

A system born out of social, economic and political struggles that provides all people with the services they need (or do not need) to live with an acceptable degree of well-being, i.e., that they are basically well.

The state educates us, takes care of our basic needs, provides us with transportation, gives us a place to stay, but… What drives this complex capitalist system? First, the expectation that everyone will give something back through work, and second, obviously, money.

The welfare state provides us with what to live on, but does not tell us how to do it, and that traps us in an involuntary contract that we have not asked for . It is for this same reason that many people do things for money and do not even know why; we live in the society of success, in which you have to “be someone” or “do things” to correspond to that utility expected by the welfare state.

The nature of success

Is there only one kind of success in this life? There are those who believe or feel that happiness is related only to money and material goods. And it is logical to think that money is the necessary means for the satisfaction of human material needs such as eating, sleeping under a roof or having access to health. The problem is that the welfare society has made everything dependent on the economic, even the happiness of its citizens, without realizing that the real success is to be happy and that our currency is a smile.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes it clear that we all have the right to a standard of living adequate for our health and well-being. But as we see in the world, this is still far from being the case.

Can you imagine not having the resources necessary for your happiness? Poverty cannot be reduced to a simple economic question , but must be considered as a structural, dynamic and multifactorial phenomenon that also encompasses factors such as education, health, or housing.

That is why poverty causes a decline in cognition, and if sustained can permanently damage the brain in the long term. Because who hasn’t ever felt anxious about money? When you don’t have enough in your wallet, all the alarms in your body go off to deal with impending resource management. In the words of Martin Seligman in the Redes program, “below the minimum necessary, wealth is very important; that is to say, that poverty affects the level of happiness in a negative way”.

The other side of the coin is the “perfect” citizen who contributes something to the state through work . But that, as is now evident, also “takes its toll”: in Japan it is considered normal to stay longer at work and, even if it is by taking a “nap” in the subway back home, that has led this society to lead much of the technology industry at the expense of an unsustainable pace of life.

Work and psychological well-being

Have you heard of Karoshi (過労死)? It is a Japanese word that means “death from overwork”, and is used to describe a social phenomenon in the working environment that has existed for several decades in Japan, consisting of an increase in the death rate from complications due to excessive working hours, especially strokes and heart attacks.

Working too much, then, leads to a decline in mental health , and the main reason is that it leaves us less time for self-care.
Easterlin’s paradox has already challenged the belief that more money equals more happiness. But it is in the most recent studies that the reality of the matter can be seen: the more money, the more happy memory, but from approximately $75,000 -year- on, instant happiness would no longer increase.

To keep earning more money, life becomes more complicated, since one must do and think about so many things at the same time that this generates unhappiness. So yes, you have more material wealth, but the possibilities of happiness decrease, “we have more things but we have less and less time for what really makes us happy: friends, family, recreation.

What we get clear from all this is that you cannot be (so) happy if your basic needs are not met, and even if happiness increases equally with money, there is a maximum point at which, no matter how much money you have, happiness will not increase any more.

In short, money is an important element in our society, which can cause both happiness and misery simultaneously . When you ask people “Does money bring happiness?” a fairly clear perception can be observed on this subject: the most repeated answer is “no, but it helps”.


Money gives happiness if we use it as what it is, a tool , but it takes it away if it is the target. However, I want to make one thing clear: money does not eat, does not put a band-aid on us, nor does it protect us from the rain. The important thing is to have food, to have someone who cares about us, and to have a roof over our heads.

The welfare society, and with it money, gives us everything to be well, but it does not give us happiness. Our happiness depends more on what we do with the money we have than on how much we have.

Bibliographic references:

  • Hori, M., & Kamo, Y. (2017).
  • Aknin LB, Wiwad D, Hanniball KB. Buying well-being.