You can put a price on happiness, and new study says it's a bargain

Money can't buy me love, The Beatles sang, and the best things in life are free – but according to new research, they couldn't have been more wrong. Not only is the happiness of falling in love indistinguishable from that of winning the pools but, says a leading Australian economist, it's worth a lot less.

In exhaustive research involving nearly 10,000 people and taking eight years to complete, Professor Paul Frijters claims to have established that happiness is really quite cheap. And the monetary value of events such as marriage, moving house and bereavement is dramatically different depending on whether you are a man or a woman.

Men, his research finds, are both far more exalted and more depressed by changes in their lives. To an Australian man marriage is worth about £17,000, but to a woman it is worth only half that. Likewise, men are far more affected by divorce.

Mr Frijters' team tracked the major life events of his subjects over a period of years and asked them to assign a number between 0 and 10 to their state of mind after important life events and sudden changes in income. This enabled him to put a money value on what he called the "psychic costs" and "psychic benefits" of these changes.

Sad events have a much bigger impact than happy ones, Professor Frijters says, dramatically so for men: the death of a partner or a child is like the loss of £350,000 to a man, but only £73,000 to a woman.

"Losing a loved one has a much bigger effect than gaining a loved one," Professor Frijters told the Sydney Morning Herald. "There's a real asymmetry between life and death. This shouldn't surprise us. Human beings seem primed to notice losses more than gains."

And some events are experienced as gains by one sex but losses by the other: moving house, for example, which is the equivalent of losing around £9,000 to a man; for a woman it's like a present of about £1,500.

The cost of living: How emotions add up


Women: +£8,726 Men: +£17,675

*Birth of child

Women: +£4,867 Men: +£18,236


Women: -£4,977 Men: -£61,116

*Death of loved one

women: -£73,205 Men: -£350,830

*Moving house

Women: +£1,454 Men: -£8,947

Source: Paul Frijters' study


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