Happiness in early years linked to wealth in adulthood, study finds

Published: Thursday, Nov. 29 2012 5:15 p.m. MST

Researchers who followed more than 10,000 adolescents in the U.S. for more than a decade found that happy teens earned 10 percent above the average salary at age 29, while their downcast counterparts earned 30 percent below average.

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Happiness during teen years is linked to higher levels of income in adulthood, a recent study finds.

"These findings have important implications for academics, policy makers, and the general public," study author Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, a political science professor at the University College London, said in a press release.

Researchers who followed more than 10,000 adolescents in the U.S. for more than a decade found that happy teens earned 10 percent above the average salary at age 29, while their downcast counterparts earned 30 percent below average.

The study was published in the Nov. 19 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Early happiness probably changes so many things about your life that even if later in life you're not as happy as you were, those formative experiences continue to play themselves out," Michael Norton, a behavioral scientist at Harvard Business School who was not involved in the research, commented to The Los Angeles Times.

Maria Iacovou, a senior research fellow at the University of Essex in England who was not involved in the research, questioned the breadth of these findings.

"The effects in this paper are not small by the standards of social sciences, but they're not huge," she told MyHealthNewsDaily. "It doesn't mean that if you have a gloomy teenager or if you are a gloomy teenager that you will necessarily end up with the rest of your life ruined."

The research doesn't necessarily prove that happy kids have a better chance of making more money when they grow up, U.S. News reported. Inheriting money or marrying into it could be important factors.

Yet, the findings illustrate that there is value in creating happy environments of children, study co-author Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, told U.S. News. "If you take our work at face value, it suggests that if you could make young Americans happier, then they would later become richer. It is possible that could work for a whole economy. A happier U.S. would translate, eventually, into a richer one."

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at rachel.lowry@gmail.com or visit www.rachellowry.blogspot.com.

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