Respect and happiness
There is lots of evidence, and we have reported it here frequently in this column, that money does not bring happiness. Yet psychological theories still suggest that higher status should raise happiness levels. So if it is not the money or wealth component of high status that increases happiness then what is it? A new study may have found the answer.
The researchers for this study hypothesised that high status could lead to respect and admiration from your friends, neighbours, or community and that this might lift your overall sense of wellbeing and happiness. Their thesis was that more respect would lead to more influence and being more integrated into the fabric of your social group.
To test this the researchers surveyed students who participated in a range of groups and calculated their sociometric status (psych code for respect) by using peer ratings, self-reports, and the number of leadership positions they held in the groups. The students also reported their total household income and answered questions about their social wellbeing.
The results showed that sociometric status but not socioeconomic status predicted how happy the subjects were. So levels of respect but not money predicted happiness.
In another study the researchers followed students in an MBA program and found that after they left the program changes in their sociometric status caused lifts in happiness where changes in socioeconomic status did not.
The researchers think that the explanation for this might lie in the theory of adaptation. Whereas numerous studies show that people quickly adapt to new levels of income or wealth, being socially integrated and having influence and respect just never gets old. Itâ€™s just another example of the power and relevance of community for personal wellbeing.