Two of the world's leading psychological experts on happiness say that money may help people feel better about their lives, but it may not necessarily improve their quality of life.
Dr. Ed Diener, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener, of the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology in Milwaukee, said so while speaking at the 117th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association on Saturday.
"People should avoid the trap of over-emphasizing financial matters and consider a complete portfolio of resources. This will help them cope when hard times are imminent," said Diener.
He also referred to a poll for which the Gallup Organization surveyed more than 136,000 people in 132 countries from 2005 to 2006.
The researcher revealed that the poll looked at several economic factors, such as income and the wealth of the respondents' countries, in connection with each person's psychological needs, such as respect, happiness, personal life evaluation and support from family and friends.
The poll showed that the average person was relatively happy and satisfied with his or her life, but a larger income was more directly related to a stronger sense of happiness than with any other factor.
The researchers observed that the people who thought they had a great life reported higher income, but larger salaries die not mean that such persons felt happier on a day-to-day basis.
According to Diener, this may surprise some people who have long heard that money can't buy happiness.
"Money is an object that many or most people highly desire and pursue during most of their waking hours. It would be surprising if making more money had no influence whatsoever when people are asked to evaluate their lives," said Diener.
The survey, however, also revealed that a larger income did not necessarily contribute to a person's day-to-day feelings of happiness, stronger social relationships or feeling of respect.
"Essentially, we have two forms of prosperity: economic and psychological. I don't know if one is better than the other. But what we've found is that while money may be able to make people lead more comfortable lives, it won't necessarily contribute to life's pleasant moments that come from engaging with people and activities rather than from material goods and luxuries," said Diener.
Biswas-Diener said it's this kind of "psychological wealth" that can help people get through the recent financial downturn.
Some scientifically proven coping methods include learning a new skill, meeting new people, using humor and prayer, and having supportive friends.
"Adaptation to both good and bad events is part of our psychological wealth because it helps us to move forward in life," said Biswas-Diener.