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Buying time increases happiness, study reveals

July 25, 2017

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on 24th July 2017, suggests that spending money on household activities such as cleaning and cooking to buy free time, is associated with increased life satisfaction.

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The team of researchers from the University of British, Columbia and Harvard Business School, surveyed over 6,000 adults from the United States, Denmark, Canada and the Netherlands.

Ashley Whillans, the lead author and assistant professor at Harvard Business School, carried out the research as a Ph.D. candidate in the UBC department of psychology. Whillans said: “People who hire a housecleaner or pay the kid next door to mow the lawn might feel like they’re being lazy. But our results suggest that buying time has similar benefits for happiness as having more money.”

The participants of the study were asked whether they use money to buy free time themselves every month and how much do they spend. They were also made to rate their satisfaction in life as well as answer questions on feelings of time-related stress.

A higher life satisfaction was reported by the participants who spent money on time-saving purchases and even after putting control on income, the result remained higher.

Elizabeth Dunn, UBC psychology professor and the study’s senior author commented that the benefits of buying time are not for the wealthy people alone. According to her, the effects are same across the income spectrum.

A field experiment was also conducted by the researchers in order to find if buying time actually increases happiness. In the experiment, 60 adults were randomly chosen and asked to do a time-saving purchase on one weekend and a material purchase on the other, both by spending $40. The finding showed that spending money on time-saving purchases provided more happiness than spending on material purchases.

Even though time-saving purchases have its benefits, it is surprising to know that only fewer people do this in daily life. In a survey that sampled 850 millionaires, nearly half of the participants reported that they don’t spend money on outsourcing disliked tasks. In another survey, 98 working adults were asked how they may spend a windfall of $40 and the result showed that only 2% use it for saving their time.

Even though many other researches show that people benefit from buying their way into pleasant experiences, Dunn suggests people to consider buying their way out of unpleasant experiences.

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