Overall happiness in life is derived from respect and influence, not wealth or status, according to a recent University of California-Berkeley study published in Psychological Science.
For the study, researchers determined the amount of respect that 80 college students received from their peers using self-reports, peer ratings, and the number of leadership positions that the students held. The researchers also considered the students' household incomes and asked about their social wellbeing and happiness.
The researchers found that the admiration the students received from their peers predicted their social wellbeing, whereas wealth or income did not.
To confirm the findings, the researchers conducted an additional study, this time focusing on graduate students in business school. They found that MBA students' happiness was tied to changes in the admiration and respect they felt from their peers before and after graduation.
According to researchers, one possible explanation for the findings may be that individuals become accustomed to higher income levels, but never tire of being admired by others.
"Lottery winners, for example, are initially happy but then return to their original level of happiness quickly," lead study author Cameron Anderson says, adding, "It's possible that being respected, having influence, and being socially integrated just never gets old" (Dallas, HealthDay, 6/22).