Why doesn’t raising the standard of living make people happier? / Hebrew

Why doesn’t raising the standard of living make people happier? / Hebrew

The Maasai tribe in Kenya, they live in primitive conditions as their ancestors lived many generations ago

Today I want to share with you an interesting observation and a couple of thoughts about it.

I recently came across the results of a “personal happiness” survey from the Gallup company, they ask people a simple question: “how happy are you?”

It is very interesting that Gallup has periodically conducted these polls since 1948, and they have accumulated results for the last 75 years.

The results of surveys on the level of happiness of Americans for 70 years

The results: Over all these 75 years, about 90% of people feel “happy” or “fairly happy” and about 10% feel “not very happy” fairly consistently. In 1948, there were a little more happy people than today, but not by much.

Why is this interesting?

It often seems to us that certain material goods – a new car, a bigger house, a newer phone – will make our lives more comfortable, and therefore a little happier.

Just imagine how much better the life of the average American is, in terms of objective physical comfort, today than it was in 1948. People live longer, people live in larger houses, a lot of inventions have appeared or spread that make our lives easier and more comfortable – from dishwashers and air conditioners to libraries and televisions in every person’s pocket.

If increased physical comfort is supposed to make us happier, why are Americans even slightly less happy today than they were in 1948?

I thought, where else can you find such data on the “personal well-being” of people, not 75 years ago, but those that go back several hundred years?

Of course, there are no such surveys, but there is a study of life satisfaction among the Amish – this is such an American culture, or maybe there is a sect, whose representatives refuse almost all new inventions for several hundred years.

The representatives of the most conservative wing of the Amish, called the Old Order, live literally as their ancestors lived in the second half of the 17th century, they even continue to speak a Pennsylvania-German dialect. their parents are from Southern Germany.

Amish life has changed little since the 17th century

The Amish don’t use electricity, don’t own cars, don’t fly airplanes, most of them continue to work on farms, using the agricultural advances of the…seventeenth century.

So, when sociologists conducted similar studies among them, it turned out that the Amish are not particularly happy, but not particularly unhappy either, they are approximately as satisfied with their lives as the residents of many developed countries. And the Maasai in Kenya are generally happier than the average American.

Results of a study on “life satisfaction” among the Amish, the Inuit in northern Canada and the Maasai tribe in Kenya

Research results using the same methodology in different countries

How so? These guys are 350 years behind us in terms of comfort, and at the same time they are not unhappy, they have their own problems and joys, just the problems and joys of the seventeenth century.

I’ll leave you with this fun fact: How is it that 350 years of increased comfort and technological progress, or at least the last 75 years for sure, haven’t made us happier?

The same happy Maasai

My practical thoughts on this topic:

  1. I know I’ll get used to any increase in my personal comfort. What was unattainable yesterday is commonplace today, and tomorrow will be a minimum requirement. I just took it for granted that a new car, a bigger apartment, a newer phone would make my life more comfortable, but not make me happier in the long run.

  2. Based on the first point, I consciously try to slow down the increase in my standard of living, what in English is aptly called living below your means. I allow myself to consume less than I could and because of this I try to save and invest more money. I will be just as happy with less consumption, so why not use this opportunity to build capital, which in turn will give me more opportunities?

  3. This approach has another plus – the less consumption and simpler life, the easier and faster you can become financially dependent. your capital will have to cover less consumption.

    Here’s another idea, instead of spending money on consumption that doesn’t make us happier, we can invest it in freeing up our time, which can actually make us happier, if some other research is to be believed.


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