Finally, 46 participants were given an envelope containing either $5 or $20 and asked to spend it that day. Individuals were randomly assigned to spend the money on personal items, or on a gift for someone else, including a charitable donation.
Those who spent their money on others reported greater "post-windfall" happiness than those who were looking out for themselves.
Still, most people spend more money on themselves than others (partly understandable given the influx of bills most households experience), but the authors suggest that as little as $5 may be enough to reap a happiness dividend.
"Reaching out and doing things for other people allows you to kind of create a community," said Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. "Social networks, we know, make people happier. It's all about creating social networks and community ties and having a sense of self that you feel is worthwhile so money therefore can be used in service of that."
And money is just one resource that can be used to that end, Dunn said. "All kinds of resources may be beneficial for our well-being," she added.
There's more on happiness at the Pew Research Center.
SOURCES: Elizabeth W. Dunn, assistant professor, psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; Alan Manevitz, M.D., clinical psychiatrist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York City; March 21, 2008, Science
All rights reserved