“Frustrated Achievers” Can’t Appreciate Life’s Successes

An increase in yearly salaries usually has a positive effect on people’s contentment with life. “Frustrated achievement” is the term used when an increase in salary does not have any positive effect on contentment and life satisfaction. To investigate the factors determining this condition, socioeconomic data from 30,000 people, collected over 12 years, was analyzed in this study. There was a significant reduction in life satisfaction with a yearly increase in income in almost one-third of the individuals studied.  A few of the reasons for these negative effects of increased income were lack of full-time jobs, failing health, and problematic marital life.

Experimental evidence is available for both positive and negative effects of money on happiness. This study analyzed self-reported changes in life satisfaction over time, with changes in income. It compared happiness in individuals over the years. The study evaluated the chances of being a “frustrated achiever” in the presence of various factors like divorce and unemployment. The effect of social and interpersonal interactions on happiness was also studied. The authors defined the term “frustrated achiever” as “an individual who reports, in a given year with respect to the previous one, a negative variation in his/her self-declared life satisfaction accompanied by a positive variation in his/her real household income.”

* An analysis of 30,000 Germans for 12 years (from 1992 to 2004) was done to identify “frustrated achievers.” The causes of dissatisfaction from life were evaluated.
* The changes in family income every year as well as changes in self-reported satisfaction were recorded. Data on family size, economics, health, education, job situation, overall satisfaction/worries, and so on was noted.
* Satisfaction regarding health, work, home, and free time was also recorded.
* The number of hours spent by each individual on work, social/marital involvement, health care (going to a doctor), and so on were also noted.

* It was found that 16 percent of all individuals were “frustrated achievers” (that is, one-third of all achievers and almost half of all frustrated people). These proportions sustained for over 12 years.
* The average income as well as positive change in income was a little lower (less than 10 percent) for “frustrated achievers” than for non-frustrated achievers. No significant change in happiness relative to income change was reported.
* “Frustrated achievers” are significantly more dissatisfied with their health, house, social life, income and work than the non-frustrated/satisfied achievers.
* It was also observed that “frustrated achievement increases when social life deteriorates.”

This study aimed to find out how often and among what part of the population money can bring happiness. The study proves that money is insufficient for the improvement of life satisfaction if one does not have good health, a satisfactory job, happy marriage, and a good social life. Lack of these results in “frustrated achievement.” The study warns policy makers that economic growth is not the same as well-being in society. It is important to improve the environment at workplaces, initiate programs that encourage inter-personal interactions, improve health care, and help reduce situations that harm marital/family life. In addition, it is important to remember that different policies supporting growth have different effects, and should therefore be chosen accordingly.

No shortcomings/next steps were discussed in this study.

For More Information:
When Money does not buy Happiness: The Case of “Frustrated Achievers
Publication Journal: The Journal of Socio-Economics, 2009
By Leonardo Becchetti; Fiammetta Rossetti; Università di Roma Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy

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