Findings of a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge debunk the idea that money can't buy happiness. Happiness, the researchers have found, can be bought but only if the spending matches the person's personality type.
For the new study published in the journal Psychological Science, Sandra Matz and colleagues looked at 76,000 bank spending transactions of 625 individuals, who took standard personality test and answered happiness questionnaire.
The researchers then had the participants' responses matched with their bank transactions over a period of six months taking into account their personality type based on the so-called "Big Five" personality traits namely openness to new experiences, agreeableness, conscientious, extroversion and neuroticism
Giving donations to charities were considered as agreeable spending categories and eating out in pubs were considered to be low on conscientiousness scale.
The researchers found that the participants who spent more on purchases that are closely aligned with their personality traits were more satisfied with life and this effect on their level of happiness was stronger compared with the effect of their total income or spending.
"Our findings suggest that spending money on products that help us express who we are as individuals could turn out to be as important to our well-being as finding the right job, the right neighborhood or even the right friends and partners," Matz said.
The researchers think that the result of their study has widespread implications. Internet merchants, for instance, may use the information to recommend products and services that can improve the well-being of their customers, which could help improve their relationship with their customers.
"In contrast to decades of research reporting surprisingly weak relationships between consumption and happiness, recent findings suggest that money can indeed increase happiness if it is spent the 'right way' (e.g., on experiences or on other people)," the researchers wrote. "When spending matches the buyer's personality, it appears that money can indeed buy happiness."
This is not the first time that researchers found a link between happiness and making purchases. A 2015 study found that material purchases as well as experiential purchases can provide buyers with varying levels of happiness.
While buying things or experiences can influence happiness, psychology professor Ryan Howell, from San Francisco State University who was involved in another study on money and happiness, warned that spending money just to uphold a certain image won't make people happy.