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Does Money Equal Happiness? Not Really, Experts Say

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How has religion played a role in the economic downturn, and does more money mean more happiness? KSMU’s Jennifer Moore posed those questions to one of next week’s featured guests at MSU’s Public Affairs Conference.

The conference is centered around the economy. Brubaker said there’s certainly anecdotal evidence that people become more religious when the economy is bad.

“Some studies showed at the beginning of the economic downturn in 2008 church attendance increased,” Brubaker said.

One study done by a sociologist at the University of Michigan, she says, showed that regular church goers actually fared better during a rough economy. She said that might be because of the support of the religious community they are entwined with. She said many of the 1,500 participants in that study found their greatest happiness in helping others.

Brubaker is participating in a panel next week at MSU’s Public Affairs Conference called “Living Poor Without Poverty: The Pursuit of Happiness in Tough Economic Times.” She said studies show money does not equal happiness.

“Once people’s basic needs are met—you know, a minimum of shelter, health care, nutrition, education—a lot of studies internationally have shown that as people gain more monetary wealth, they actually are less happy,” Brubaker said.

Many people have discovered the worth of family and community since they’ve had to cut back due to losses in income or a pension fund.

“The cliché money doesn’t buy happiness? There’s some truth to that. Things alone don’t bring happiness. So I don’t want to sound naive about it, because people do need a certain degree of economic security to be happy. But beyond that, there’s very little evidence that you have increased happiness with monetary wealth,” she said.

MSU's Public Affairs Conference is next week. All events are free and open to the public. For a complete schedule, you can click here.

For KSMU News, I'm Jennifer Moore.