In a keen grasp of the obvious,University of Southern California(USC) researchers have released astudy showing that people aren'tany happier even when they acquiregreater wealth. That comes as no surpriseto me—and shouldn't to doctorswho have a clue about life. Researchersanalyzed data from the US GeneralSocial Survey, which asked the same1500 people from 1972 to 2000 abouttheir income and happiness levels.
"We don't realize that our materialwants increase with the amount of moneywe make," says Dr. Richard Easterlin, aneconomist and USC professor who ledthe research efforts. "We always think themore money we make, the happier we'llbe. This illusion leads us to misallocatetime to material pursuits rather than nonmaterialpursuits, such as spending timewith family or maintaining good health."
Growing up as the child of a successfulphysician, I saw first hand how moneyand happiness had little to do with eachother. I don't claim to have a perfect family,but I did personally witness the troublesand sadness of many wealthy familiesin my community. For the many parentsand children of wealth I knew, it waseasier to ignore a problem, offering amaterial possession or act, than confrontone with a thoughtful conversation oract. The lesson I learned? If you count onmoney or possessions to make you happy,you'll be endlessly disappointed.
And it's not just American citizenswho make the mistake of thinking thatmoney can somehow improve a person'slot in life. Unfortunately, it's the stock-in-tradefor our government. Funding forsocial welfare programs is by far thelargest portion of the nation's governmentoutlays—representing more than50% of the annual federal budget. Allthat money, and such little happiness.
Perhaps physicians, who know somethingabout seeking contentment intoday's anxious medical profession times,are more in tune than most. According toa recent survey of 2300 readers, nearly 80%believed that "spending time with family"was the best way to improve theirmind, body, and spirit.