Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Money doesn’t buy happiness - - except when disability strikes

06.04.2005


Financial ’buffer’ appears to help preserve well-being after health setbacks



The old saying that ’money doesn’t buy happiness’ may hold true most of the time. But when a serious health problem comes along, financial resources may really cushion the blow to a person’s psyche, a new study suggests.

The finding, made by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, stands in contrast to previous research that showed no major differences in self-reported happiness and well-being between wealthy people and those with modest financial assets.


Instead, the study finds that people with relatively large financial assets before they became disabled reported substantially better well-being, and less sadness and loneliness, after they were disabled than was reported by people with fewer financial resources who also became disabled.

Although the difference eased a few years after disability set in, the researchers say the finding has important implications for such things as personal savings, retirement planning and "safety net" government programs for the seriously ill and disabled.

The study will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Society. It’s based on an analysis of data from 478 older Americans who were interviewed regularly and in depth for as long as nine years, before and after they suffered a health problem that left them disabled. The data are from the Health and Retirement Study, conducted by the U-M Institute for Social Research with funding from the National Institute on Aging.

"Happiness and well-being may not depend on a person’s financial state in times of health, but when that health fails, as it will eventually for most of us, money matters," says senior author Peter Ubel, M.D., a U-M professor of internal medicine and psychology, and a staff physician at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

"Money may not buy happiness, but it does seem to buy people out of some of the misery that’s associated with a decline in health status," says lead author Dylan Smith, Ph.D., a research specialist at the VA Health Services Research & Development Center and a U-M psychologist and internal medicine research investigator.

Ubel directs, and Smith is a member of, the U-M Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine. They note that research has already shown that psychological well-being, or lack of it, can affect people’s response to medical treatment, and their ability to work or care for themselves and their family. Other research has shown that half of personal bankruptcies are linked to health care costs. The federal bankruptcy reforms now under consideration in Congress do not exempt medical costs.

For the new study, the researchers focused on the data from the 478 HRS study participants who became disabled during the years when they were surveyed regularly, starting in 1992, and continuing until 2000. Participants were classified as disabled if they became unable to carry out routine tasks of daily living such as walking, getting out of bed, eating and dressing without help.

The researchers then divided the participants into two income groups: those with financial assets above the median level, and those below the median. Assets in the HRS are measured by adding together home equity, savings, stocks, bonds and other assets, and subtracting debts. The median net worth in the study was $98,400, and 311 of the participants had assets below that level.

The researchers then looked at how the participants had rated their overall psychological well-being on a standardized survey, focusing on happiness, enjoyment of life, sadness and loneliness. They looked at how that self-reported well-being changed over time, from pre-disability to post-disability.

The analysis showed that those whose financial assets had been above the median before they were disabled suffered a much smaller drop in self-reported well-being than those who had been below the median. A second analysis confirmed that there was a relationship between a person’s net worth and the drop in their well-being after disability.

The researchers looked at data from a sub-group of people who had well-being data on record from several years after they suffered their disability. Although the researchers did not assess again whether the disability was still present, or whether it had lessened, they did find that the well-being of those with lower net worth had improved somewhat. The well-being of those with more financial means had actually decreased slightly.

In all, Ubel says, the results should help individuals and policy makers understand the importance of financial security in relationship to a person’s health and well-being. Since disability of some form or another strikes a large percentage of Americans, and increases as people grow older, the issue will only become more important as the baby boom generation ages.

"Our study suggests that it is better to save for a rainy day, than to spend your savings on a house where it doesn’t rain," he says.

Ubel and Smith also note that their study does not demonstrate directly that having more money and more assets shields a person from a psychological downfall when disability strikes. There could be some psychological factors associated with a person’s ability to accumulate wealth that could also make them more resilient when they become disabled.

But in all, they say, the research is the first time that financial assets have shown to be a possible buffer for a person’s well-being after a decline in health.

In addition to Ubel and Smith, the study team included U-M biostatistician and research associate Mohammed Kabeto, M.S., and Kenneth Langa, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of general medicine at the U-M Medical School, a research investigator at the Ann Arbor VA, and a faculty associate at the Institute for Social Research.

Kara Gavin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>