Researchers report that earning more money is associated with greater feelings of pride, confidence, and determination, as well as less fear. Conversely, lower incomes are linked to the opposite; more negative emotions like sadness, shame, and fear.
Interestingly, while more money may lead to greater self-confidence, it doesn’t appear to make high-earners any more compassionate or loving.
“The effects of income on our emotional well-being should not be underestimated,” says lead study researcher Eddie M.W. Tong, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the National University of Singapore. “Having more money can inspire confidence and determination while earning less is associated with gloom and anxiety.”
While the connection between money and a high opinion of oneself is fairly predictable in the Western world, these findings are especially noteworthy because of the numerous cultures and countries covered. This research encompasses over 1.6 million people living in over 160 different nations. Included countries ranged from high income to developing. As such, study authors call their work the most comprehensive analysis of this topic on a global scale ever put together.
Across all those different countries, a common theme emerged. While a higher salary or income consistently links up with an elevated view of oneself, monetary matters don’t seem to have a predictable effect on how we view others.
“Having more money doesn’t necessarily make a person more compassionate and grateful, and greater wealth may not contribute to building a more caring and tolerant society,” Professor Tong explains.
Moreover, this effect doesn’t seem to fade as time passes either. Researchers analyzed a separate long-term survey of 4,000 US citizens. That investigation led to the revelation that a high income predicted greater levels of confidence 10 years later. Similarly, lower incomes were linked to higher levels of fear and shame a decade later.
“Policies aimed at raising the income of the average person and boosting the economy may contribute to emotional well-being for individuals,” Professor Tong concludes. “However, it may not necessarily contribute to emotional experiences that are important for communal harmony.”
To be clear, this study is ultimately correlational in nature. This means that the research team can’t say definitively that a higher income directly causes more confidence, pride, etc. What they can conclude, however, is that there is an undeniable connection between earning more money and greater “self-regard” emotions.
It’s also worth mentioning that the study authors found no consistent effect between more money or a higher salary and feelings of anger, happiness, and gratitude. So, earning more money may help an individual become more confident and full of pride, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be immune to bad moods. It also means it is probably possible for someone to be rich, full of self-confidence, and still absolutely miserable.
The full study can be found here, published in the scientific journal Emotion.