Happiness is keeping up with the Joneses

Sociologists found that it was not strictly true to say being well-off will not make a person happy, according to research released today. But it depends crucially on whether a person is able to "keep up with the Jones's".

Researchers in the US examined the "hedonic treadmill hypothesis" that suggests people are in a continual wealth race with their neighbours.

Measurements were taken of the age, total family income, and general happiness of a group of people aged 20 to 64. Happiness was recorded by asking participants if they were "very happy", "pretty happy" or "not too happy".

The results showed that the richer people were relative to their peers of the same age, the happier they tended to be.

Glen Firebaugh, from Pennsylvania State University, who led the study, said: "We find, with and without controls for age, health and education, that the higher the income of others in one's age group, the lower one's happiness.