SUNDAY, June 19, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Personal independence and freedom are more important to people's well-being than wealth, a new study concludes.
Researchers at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand analyzed the findings of three studies that included a total of more than 420,000 people from 63 countries and spanned nearly 40 years.
Their key finding: "Money leads to autonomy, but it does not add to well-being or happiness."
The studies looked at data from three different psychological tests familiar to therapists:
- The General Health Questionnaire, which measures distress in terms of anxiety and insomnia, social problems, severe depression and physical symptoms of mental distress, such as unexplained headaches and stomach aches.
- The Spielberger anxiety inventory, which evaluates how anxious respondents feel at a particular moment.
- The Maslach Burnout Inventory, which screens for emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and lack of personal accomplishment.
The analysis revealed "a very consistent and robust finding that societal values of [freedom and autonomy] were the best predictors of well-being," wrote psychologists Ronald Fischer and Diana Boer in an American Psychological Association release.
"Furthermore, if wealth was a significant predictor alone, this effect disappeared when individualism was entered," they added.
"Our findings provide insight into well-being at the societal level," the researchers concluded.
The study appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Mental Health American outlines ways to live your life well.