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Give and Be Happy
Date:3/20/2008

In study, people felt better dispersing gifts than buying things for themselves

THURSDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- Money can buy happiness, at least when you spend it on others.

That's the conclusion of a study appearing in the March 21 issue of Science. It found that spending on others brings people greater satisfaction than buying things for themselves.

What's more, most people seemed unaware of this hidden key to happiness, the researchers said.

"It's tied to 'pro-social' spending," said Elizabeth Dunn, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

"Most research has looked at the relationship of how much people make and how happy they are," Dunn said. "We examined what they did with it. It's an obvious question but it hasn't been tackled."

Hikes in income can help boost happiness, but the effect is weak, prior studies have found. Research have also found that as the average income rises within a society, people's reported levels of happiness remain relatively static.

So is there something people could be doing with their cash to boost their mental well-being? The authors looked at the question in three different ways.

First they asked a nationally representative sample of 632 Americans (roughly equivalent between genders) to rate their happiness, report their annual income and estimate how much they spend on a typical month on different items, including gifts to others and donations to charity.

Those who had more of this "pro-social" spending were also happier, the team found.

Then they asked 16 employees to rate their happiness both before and after receiving profit-sharing from the company they worked for.

Those who gave away more of their bonus in a pro-social manner were, again, happier and this was true no matter how little
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