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Can You Buy Happiness? Yes, Study Suggests, If You Spend on Experiences

HealthDay News
by -- Kayla McKiski
Updated: Mar 21st 2020

new article illustration

SATURDAY, March 21, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Consumers are happier when they spend money on experiences, instead of more stuff, a pair of new studies finds.

"It would be unfair to compare a shirt to a trip, but when we account for price, we still see this result where experiences are associated with more happiness," said lead author Amit Kumar, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Texas at Austin.

One study involved over 2,600 adults, who were randomly assigned to buy material items or experiences. Material buyers bought items like jewelry, clothing or furniture. Experiential buyers spent money on events, restaurants or other experiences.

Participants were sent texts during the day to track their purchasing behavior and their emotions.

The upshot: Happiness was higher for participants who purchased experiences -- regardless of the kind or cost.

A second study with 5,000 participants investigated possible differences in types of consumers. Participants reported their happiness and then whether they had used, enjoyed or consumed a purchase within the past hour. When they answered "yes," a series of questions followed. The effect was the same.

"If you want to be happier, it might be wise to shift some of your consumption away from material goods and a bit more toward experiences," Kumar said in a university news release. "That would likely lead to greater well-being."

Experiential consumers were found to be happier before, during and after a purchase, the researchers said. That's possibly because of the memories experiences create, the study authors suggested.

The research will be published in the May issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

More information

Harvard Medical School has more on happiness and health.