Be happy — give to charity

27 March 2008

by Pat Ashworth

PEOPLE who give money away are happier than those who spend it on themselves, researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Harvard Business School have suggested.

A majority of the 109 students sampled at UBC said they would be happier with $20 in their pocket, and they would rather spend it on themselves. But the team led by Professor Elizabeth Dunn, a social psychologist at UBC, gave 46 other students a $20 or $5 note which they had to spend by 5 p.m. that day. Half had to spend it on themselves, and half on others.

The half who spent it on others were happier. “These findings suggest that very minor alterations in spending allocations — as little as $5 — may be enough to produce real gains in happiness,” said Professor Dunn.

The team polled 16 employees of a Boston company before and after they received their bonuses. Those who gave more of their bonus to charity reported greater benefits than those who spent money on their own needs.

In a poll of 632 people across the United States, researchers found that “those who spent money on others reported greater happiness.”

Giving once might make a person happy for a day, Professor Dunn suggests, “but if it becomes a way of living, it could make a lasting difference.”

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