It’s a question for the ages: Can money buy happiness? Common knowledge says that it can’t — but according to science, it can if you spend it on the right things. A new study out of the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School suggests that if we spend our money on things that save us time, our general sense of well-being is a lot better. Maybe this explains why you’re so reluctant to break your Seamless habit, even though you keep telling yourself that this will be the last time you get sushi this week.
The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America(and available to read online for free!),consisted of two parts: A survey, and a field experiment. For the survey, the researchers recruited 6,000 participants in the United States, Denmark, Canada, and the Netherlands via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk program and had them answer questions on whether they spent on a monthly basis “paying someone else to complete unenjoyable tasks” — and if so, how much they spent on this kind of payment per month. Participants also provided information about their annual household income, how many hours they work per week, their age, their marital status, and how many children they have living at home— and, perhaps most importantly, rated their life satisfaction. Lastly, the participants from Denmark and Canada answered questions that allowed the research to measure how they felt about time-related stress and test whether “buying time” helped lower these stress levels.