Psychological and social science research supports that living amid the wealthy even when you are upper-middle class is bad for your mental health

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Psychological and social science research supports that living amid the wealthy even when you are upper-middle class is pretty bad for your mental health.


In 2010, a study at the University of Warwick and Cardiff University found that money improves happiness only if it also improves one’s social rank. This is mostly because people want to feel as though they are moving up— living in a place where they feel as though they are hardly getting by compared to their neighbors gives them the idea (subconsciously) that they aren’t actually succeeding.


All status is ultimately local, which means people naturally feel compelled to compare themselves to the people that they live near. Even if you make more than someone in a different area, being highly paid won’t be enough to actually improve your happiness.


All in all, with respect to income and happiness, how much income a person has relative to their income comparison group is what matters the most.


“Americans overall may live better than medieval aristocrats could dream of, but that means nothing when oligarchs live in the neighborhood next door, flaunting their luxurious homes and top-quality private schools.”


Contentment is relative as it is dependent on how you see yourself in comparison to those you view as genuine peers.


Even if you are middle class according to national averages, if you dwell in the hyper-wealthy areas of this country, you will probably find yourself struggling materially and emotionally. Under this circumstance, the fact that you know all too well that you should be grateful for what you have only made this situation worse.


Lastly, another study of the power of rank rather than absolute income cited an “evolutionarily based”, “involuntary defeat syndrome” in which low social rank opens people up to psychological disorders, such as depression. This leaves me to ask WHY don’t we, as a society, make an effort to build a more inclusive society?

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