This study just totally blew open the money and happiness equation

Earlier this year, a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said that money can have a big boost on your happiness. Contrary to other studies that have linked specific monetary amounts to happiness, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found money never stops making people feel better no matter how much they make, but families that earn more money have more choices — or freedom — in life to pursue what makes them happy.

The idea “money doesn’t buy happiness” seemed to be washed away, but don’t let that research completely fool you; a new study found that you don’t need to be making a boatload to be happier.

Researchers at McGill University and the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technologies at the University Autonoma de Barcelona recently released new findings suggesting that people in societies where money plays a slim role can experience heightened levels of happiness.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, said that communities where money doesn’t play such an important role can be as happy as those that are rich in monetized societies due to focusing on other values in life, including family and nature, according to researchers.

“In less monetized sites, we found that people reported a greater proportion of time spent with family and contact with nature as being responsible for making them happy,” Sara Minarro, the lead author on the study, said in a statement. “But with increasing monetization, we found that the social and economic factors commonly recognized in industrialized countries played a bigger role. Overall, our findings suggest that monetization, especially in its early stages, may actually be detrimental to happiness.”

The study interviewed 678 people in fishing communities in the Solomon Islands and Bangladesh. These are two low-income countries, which is why researchers wanted to see how life in these locales compared to other places, like Scandinavia counties which normally have some of the highest happiness ratings in the world. The interviews, which were conducted over the course of a few months, came through in person interaction and phone calls at unexpected times, and researchers were able to gauge a participant’s level of happiness and their general moods, lifestyle, hobbies, and other measures.

While the study was predominately male (85% of participants were male), researchers said this was caused by cultural norms in Bangladesh that made it difficult to interview women. For that reason alone, it’s difficult to gauge gender-related happiness due to lifestyles of men and women being different, according to researchers.

Nevertheless, researchers discovered that communities where money came to more use, residents reported lower levels of happiness.

“Our study hints at possible ways of achieving happiness that are unrelated to high incomes and material wealth,” Eric Galbraith, a professor in McGil, said. “This is important, because if we replicate these results elsewhere and can pinpoint the factors that contribute to subjective well-being, it may help us circumvent some of the environmental costs associated with achieving social well-being in the least developed nations.”