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Therapy More Effective than Money for Happiness

2009-11-23 07:53

Researchers compared individual happiness from boosts in income to therapy, finding that counseling is 32 more times more cost effective at relieving psychological distress and keeping people happy than money. The conclusion from the study is that improved access to mental health counseling, rather than a focus on income and economic growth, would be more effective for increasing the happiness and well-being of populations.

The paper from Warwick researchers titled, “Money or Mental Health: The Cost of Alleviating Psychological Distress with Monetary Compensation versus Psychological Therapy, points to the cost effectiveness and success of therapy rather than economic growth and compensation for relieving psychological distress.

For the study, the researchers looked at the happiness of thousands of individuals, comparing changes in income to the effect of therapy and resultant improvements in psychological well-being, finding that psychological therapy, not money improves well-being and happiness among individuals, and is less costly than monetary compensations.

A four month course of psychological therapy had a much larger impact on well-being than sudden increases in income, such as through lottery wins or increased pay. The researchers say it would take a pay raise of over 41000 dollars to produce the same amount of well-being and happiness as a therapy course that costs 1320 dollars. The implications, according to the researchers, mean government misses the mark for promoting well-being and happiness by focusing on economic growth.

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Highlights from the study include the decline in mental health and happiness in developed countries in the past fifty years. Economic growth has not increased national happiness, despite gains. The researchers also note that monetary compensation awarded in lawsuits for “pain and suffering” may do little to repair psychological harm.

University of Warwick researcher Chris Boyce said: “We have shown that psychological therapy could be much more cost effective than financial compensation at alleviating psychological distress. This is not only important in courts of law, where huge financial awards are the default way in which pain and suffering are compensated, but has wider implications for public health and well-being.”

Boyce says money is over-valued for producing happiness and well-being in our societies. “The benefits of having good mental health, on the other hand, are often not fully appreciated and people do not realize the powerful effect that psychological therapy, such as non-directive counseling, can have on improving our well-being.” The study shows that counseling, not money and focus on economic growth could cost effectively promote happiness and well-being in developing countries that have experienced steady declines in mental health.

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