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The Duality of Wealth: Is Material Wealth Good or Bad for Well-being?

posted Dec 27, 2013, 3:40 PM by Naomi Naghi   [ updated Feb 16, 2014, 11:48 PM ]

Weiting Ng1

Journal of Social Research & Policy
Volume: 4, Issue: 2
pp. 7-19
Date: December 2013
ISSN: 2067-2640 (print), 2068-9861 (electronic)

Abstract: This paper first examines if, and how material wealth is related to the different components of subjective well-being (SWB). Greater wealth is related to higher life evaluation and, to a limited extent, higher emotional well-being (more positive feelings and less negative feelings). The beneficial impact of wealth on happiness holds true at both the individual and national levels. However, although economic growth brings about greater happiness, excessive pursuit of wealth is detrimental to SWB, leading to lower life satisfaction and greater negative affect. The paper then reviews the negative impact of affluence on quality of life, and how that in turn diminishes SWB. Next, the paper assesses why wealth is a weak predictor of emotional well-being, by drawing on needs theories as explanations. Finally, the synthesis of the various findings suggests that although material wealth enhances happiness, it can also exert indirect deleterious effects on well-being.

Keywords: Wealth; Well-being; Happiness; Economic growth; Affluence.

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