Providing individuals with freedom and personal autonomy appears to top the priority list than money in giving them good health and happiness, finds research.
"Our findings provide new insights into well-being at the societal level," said researchers at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand who conducted the study.
"Providing individuals with more autonomy appears to be important for reducing negative psychological symptoms, relatively independent of wealth."
Psychologists Ronald Fischer, and Diana Boer, looked at studies involving three different psychological tests - altogether, they examined a sample of 420,599 people from 63 countries spanning nearly 40 years.
Fischer and Boer statistically combined the results of the different studies, noting that their analysis was somewhat unusual in that the key variables were collected from different sources and that no single study included the two variables they were considering, i.e., wealth and individualism. (Participants only answered questions regarding one of the dependent variables of general health, anxiety or burnout.)
"Across all three studies and four data sets, we observed a very consistent and robust finding that societal values of individualism were the best predictors of well-being," the authors wrote. "Furthermore, if wealth was a significant predictor alone, this effect disappeared when individualism was entered."
In short, they found, "money leads to autonomy but it does not add to well-being or happiness."
The study has been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.