Money can’t buy happiness, or can it?

April 20, 2011

Money can’t buy happiness, or can it?
Money can’t buy happiness, or can it?

Is happiness based on money? Maybe. A group of economists at the University of Texas, oddly obsessed with studying beautiful people, are determined to connect appearance, income and happiness. In an earlier study, they showed that better-looking people earn more money and pair with similarly-blessed mates who are also big earners.

Now, according to a March 2011 Time article, the economists, led by Daniel Hamermesh, are claiming that beautiful people are happier. Why? Because they earn more money. If Hamermesh is correct, the old adage, “Money can’t buy happiness” goes straight out the window.

The Texas cabal analyzed data from five large surveys conducted between 1971 and 2009 in the USA, Canada, Germany and Britain. They found that beautiful people are generally happier, particularly so women. Hamermesh says, "For a woman, it just matters to walk down the street being good-looking. It hurts to walk down the street being bad-looking. For a man, beauty's direct relation to happiness is not as great. It will give you a better-looking wife, a higher-earning wife and — most important — extra earnings."

The beauty-wealth correlation may be reasonable, with many huge exceptions, and the beauty-happiness correlation bears thinking about, but if you’re skeptical about a study that links wealth to happiness, so is Time magazine. Other studies show that the rewards of wealth, such as buying a lot of stuff, do not make people happy and that happiness comes with growing older, not richer.

Hamermesh also thinks you’re out of luck if you’re not naturally beautiful and self improvement is a waste of time and money. “Your beauty is determined to a tremendous extent by the shape of your face, by its symmetry and how everything hangs together."

Unless you’re trying to compete with the likes of Angelina Jolie, that is utter nonsense. For most of us, beauty is an excellent investment, from clothing to hairstyles to injectables to a facelift. The way we spent our money in 2010 supports this notion.

Americans took advantage of a relatively improved economy to invest in their own personal appearances. According to the 2010 statistics released by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery the demand for plastic surgery procedures increased almost 9% last year. Almost 9.5 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2010.  


The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

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About ASAPS
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

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