“There are so many things in life that are more important than money! But they cost so much!” The hilarious phrase of the comedian Groucho Marx was perhaps not one of his many jokes. Because although the philosophers of all times —from Confucius to Voltaire— managed to say in sweet sayings that “bulging pockets do not make happiness”, the evidence for Uruguay shows that —at least on average— satisfaction with life is closely related to money.
The last measurement of happiness with daily life carried out by the Opción consultancy —whose results were accessed The Observer– shows that in the highest income segment, satisfaction with life reaches 85% of the populationwhile in the middle-income strata it reaches 74% and in the low-income strata it reaches 63%.
“In contemporary societies, expectations in relation to consumption standards play a relevant role in people’s values and, therefore, influence their satisfaction and happiness,” explains sociologist Agustín Bonino, director of Opción and author of the investigation. Happens that “access to economic resources and the ability to meet basic needs and individual aspirations have a significant impact on how people assess their well-being and quality of life”.
The finding, consistent with the international literature and other measurements by the consultant itself, does not mean that the link between money and happiness is linear. In fact, Opción’s research shows that satisfaction with life is subject to variables that go beyond the vicissitudes of the economy, health problems or the political situation of the place where one lives.
So much so that “in the gray Uruguay” —the one in which the color palette of the clothing hardly escapes blues, blacks and beige— happiness continues to be well positioned over the years. At least seven out of ten Uruguayans say they feel “quite” or “very happy”a figure almost identical to that registered a decade ago.
If happiness were a ladder of ten steps, in which higher is equivalent to a higher level of satisfaction, the majority of those surveyed position themselves above the seventh step.
In fact, only 7% responded feeling “little” or “not at all happy”with all the rest located in intermediate or high values.
It coincides with the location of Uruguay in the happiness ranking published by the United Nations every March and which, in its latest edition, positioned the country in 28th place out of 137.
Why does that gray Uruguay with one of the highest suicide rates in the world have comparatively high happiness figures? There may be a bias when responding —the fear of what they will say—, or it may be that the satisfaction goes through different lanes. For example: The United Nations considers life expectancy at birth, universal access to health, low perception of corruption and the welfare state as part of happiness, all variables in which Uruguay tends to be better placed than its peers. region of.
According to the data revealed by the Opción study, “it is observed that the happiness of Uruguayans varies depending on the different stages of life: the young population, between the ages of 18 and 34, tends to perceive themselves happier compared to adult age groups and older adults.
Specifically, 77% of young people feel “quite” or “very happy” compared to 69% of older adults.
“It is understandable that young people, without the same burdens and responsibilities that are experienced in adulthood and old age, can feel freer and more optimistic about their well-being and future,” says sociologist Bonino.
Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, fourth director of the Harvard study that has spent four-fifths of a century investigating what gives meaning to life, does not believe that happiness has a link with age, not even with sex at birth or origin. “What we call happiness depends on what we need. If you come from a very unstable environment, perhaps for you happiness is stability. If you come from a very boring place, maybe it’s the emotion. It partly depends on what we lack. But research suggests that happiness falls into two broad categories. One is hedonic: am I having a good time right now? Am I enjoying this coffee? The other is eudemonic well-being, which comes from Aristotle and has to do with the feeling that life has meaning, that it is worth it, ”he had told El País in Spain a month and a half ago.
Why then could young people perceive themselves as happier? The Harvard investigation, which in its beginnings had John F. Kennedy among its guinea pigs, has been concluding that “relationships make us happier and keep us healthier.” It is probable that young people, prior to the constitution of their own family, rely a lot on their peer group and on the friendship ties that make them feel more satisfied.
In that sense, relationships don’t necessarily mean being around people. In the Nordic countries there are a lot of lonely people and yet they have high happiness rates. In other words: a relationship or having children is not necessarily linked to greater or lesser satisfaction with current life.
In the interior of Uruguay, where the population density is lower, there are higher figures for those who feel “very happy” compared to Montevideans. “Among Montevideans, those who express feeling ‘very happy’ represent 24%, while at the level of residents of the interior this percentage increases to 33%,” says the report.
“Although we do not have precise information on the causes that explain this difference, we could consider that the existence of less fragmentation and closer social networks in small towns could influence these results. In inland towns, it is possible that social connections are closer and relationships are more solid, which could contribute to a higher degree of satisfaction and perceived happiness,” says Bonino from the Opción consultancy.
Again: happiness might have to do with money, but it’s not linear. It could have to do with age, but it’s not linear. Nor with where you live or where you go. And that Jorge Luis Borges repeated: “I have ever suspected that the only thing without mystery is happiness, because it justifies itself.”
The information presented comes from a cell phone survey of 400 people over the age of 18 residing throughout the country. The measurement was carried out during the month of December 2022, based on a simple random sampling of cell phone range numbers. The maximum margin of error is +/-4.9% (openings of the information by segments are subject to higher margins of error). The results are weighted by sex, age, socioeconomic level and region. The survey is multi-client.