Buying Time Promotes Happiness,
Princeton University Press, June 2017;
Ashley V. Whillans, Elizabeth W. Dunn, Paul Smeets, Rene Bekkers, Michael I Norton
Take, buy, enjoy…time
Despite rising incomes, people around the world are feeling increasingly pressed for time, undermining well-being. We show that the time famine of modern life can be reduced by using money to buy time. Surveys of large, diverse samples from four countries reveal that spending money on time-saving services is linked to greater life satisfaction. To establish causality, we show that working adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase. This research reveals a previously unexamined route from wealth to well-being: spending money to buy free time.
Through the WI Lens
We spend our lives pondering decisions on whether to place more value on money or on time (for example: shall I live nearer to the office and pay more rent, or do the opposite?). However, we are generally not very good at investing in time: if we pay someone to fix something in the house or to mow the lawn, we know exactly what we lose in monetary terms but we find it hard to assess how much we gain in terms of life satisfaction (a shorthand for happiness). This new study shows that timesaving purchases (spending money to buy time) are correlated with increased life satisfaction. This shouldn’t come as a surprise in our “always-on” world in which time is becoming an ever scarcer commodity. As a result we now place more value on time, which in turn suggests that all the activities that allow us to regain possession of time (paying for it, but also engaging in activities that make us feel in control of it like walking) will increase our sense of wellbeing. The take-away for the wellbeing industry: don’t rush your clients!
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“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
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The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.