Can money buy happiness?
Can money buy happiness? This question, long pondered over by philosophers, psychologists and sociologists has more recently become a subject for empirical study by economists, corporations and governments alike. By testing survey data accumulated over time, and from different countries, it has been made possible to revisit this question with renewed understanding of happiness or life satisfaction factors.
With the help of YouGov, Bayt.com has recently conducted a survey entitled ‘The Bayt.com Happiness and Wellbeing in the MENA’, July 2013, to understand the levels of happiness and satisfaction in the MENA region. The research digs into people’s perceptions to know more about their overall satisfaction with their personal and professional life, but also with their current health and well-being, and life in general in their country of residence.
So before we can answer the question of whether or not money can buy happiness, ‘The Bayt.com Happiness and Wellbeing in the MENA’ survey clearly reveals that happiness in the MENA differs greatly across different factors and among countries. While some countries express a high level of satisfaction vis-à-vis their personal life but a somewhat dissatisfaction in their professional life, other countries are perfectly happy with both. And, while some countries provide a good infrastructure, a general feeling of safety and security, career advancement opportunities, and a stable of the political environment, others lag behind.
In light of the above, ‘The Bayt.com Happiness and Wellbeing in the MENA’ survey results varied quite a deal across the three main regions in the MENA (the GCC, Levant and North Africa).
For example, while 8 out of 10 respondents in Jordan indicate that the number one cause of stress in Jordan is – as across the rest of the region – the increasing cost of living, 74% are quite satisfied with general safety and security, the ability to maintain healthy personal relationships (65%), and the availability of utilities (57%).
Lebanon is another country that is considered one of the less happy countries when it comes to many factors related to country of residence; 76% claim to be dissatisfied with general safety and security, 91% with stability of political environment, 87% with cost of living. Yet, respondents in Lebanon fare better when it comes to their personal life, with 41% saying that they are extremely satisfied with the freedom they have to socialize, 35% with freedom to follow one’s own beliefs, and 26% with opportunities to socialize.
GCC respondents, on the other hand, have much higher levels of satisfaction on most attributes seen as key to happiness aside from cost of living and overall employment opportunities.
The survey reveals that UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman are among the happier countries in the region. This satisfaction can be attributed to the fact that people feel safe and secure in countries that enjoy a solid infrastructure, access to healthcare facilities, opportunities to socialize, entertainment venues, and a stable political and economic environment.
In Bahrain, while 46% of the surveyed employees claim to be ‘somewhat’ to ‘extremely’ satisfied with their job, 61% of respondents claim to be stressed by everyday life. Among leading causes of stress are work-related issues (as stated by 52% of respondents) and the current political situation (as stated by 51% of respondents).
Respondents in Egypt, on the other hand, are affected by the cost of living and lack of political stability, which are the major sources for dissatisfaction and stress. However, the survey reveals Egypt as generally satisfied. This satisfaction can be attributed to the fact that the social structure is supportive of maintaining relationships, which then reflects on a positive attitude on most other personal fronts.
Respondents in North Africa express high dissatisfaction with the availability of key aspects such as general infrastructure, public transport facilities, opportunities to socialize, and entertainment avenues.
In general, employment opportunities and cost of living are the two elements that respondents in the MENA say they are least satisfied with.
It turns out the phrase ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’ doesn’t quite capture the entire relationship between people, money and happiness. Money actually can buy happiness, or at least a lesser amount of stress. And the one place that money and happiness are significantly linked is when a person is unable to afford to meet their basic needs. This is where the role of governments and companies themselves come into play to create employment opportunities that allow residents to maintain a decent lifestyle.