Does a higher salary increase happiness?

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The relationship between salary and happiness is not as strong as expected according to analysis released today by global specialist recruitment company, Michael Page.

The analysis, which looked at average salaries and life satisfaction ratings for 35-50-year-olds from the Cabinet Office’s Wellbeing and Policy Report, revealed a group of ‘happy outliers’ – people on low salaries who are happier than others who earn significantly more.

  • Fitness instructors, who take home an average of £10,378 per year, are actually happier than lawyers who earn an average of £75,399.
  • Dental nurses, who earn an average of £15,024, were found to be happier than dentists who make an average of £53,567.
  • School secretaries are actually happier than actuaries, even though they earn an average of £15,614 and £61,584 per year respectively.

The survey also revealed that the clergy is the happiest outlying sector, followed closely by secretarial, education, agriculture, and administration.

An interactive visualisation of this data can be found in ‘Salary vs. Happiness,’ which plots the salary and happiness of more than 260 occupations.

Data Tables

Happy Outliers

Job Title Sector Average Salary, £ Happiness score Happiness Percentile Rank Salary Percentile Rank Gap
Fitness instructors Sports 10378 7.718 0.95 0.04 0.91
Dental nurses Healthcare 15024 7.699 0.93 0.13 0.8
School secretaries Secretarial 15614 7.711 0.94 0.14 0.8
Company secretaries Secretarial 18176 7.93 0.99 0.23 0.76
Teaching assistants Education 11796 7.587 0.82 0.07 0.75
Childminders Service Occupations 12949 7.584 0.82 0.11 0.71
Farm workers Agriculture 17925 7.692 0.92 0.22 0.7
Playworkers Education 7400 7.489 0.72 0.02 0.7
Sports coaches, instructors & officials Sports 11762 7.507 0.74 0.07 0.67
Clergy Clergy 20568 8.291 1 0.34 0.66

Happiest Outlying Sectors

Rank Sector Weighted Average Salary Weighed Happiness Score Happiness Percentile Rank Salary Percentile Rank Gap
1 Clergy 20568 8.291 1.00 0.26 0.74
2 Secretarial 16384 7.494087566 0.77 0.13 0.65
3 Education 24714 7.592098465 0.94 0.32 0.61
4 Agriculture 19276 7.3982 0.55 0.23 0.32
5 Administration 17794 7.32598023 0.42 0.16 0.26
6 Healthcare 26677 7.403526229 0.58 0.36 0.23
7 Arts 29433 7.433085106 0.65 0.48 0.16
8 Sports 15531 7.222842105 0.23 0.10 0.13
9 Retail 14547 7.101646784 0.13 0.03 0.10
10 Public Sector 27497 7.333262027 0.45 0.39 0.07

About the data and calculations

Salary data is from the 2013 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, and ‘happiness’ is the mean life satisfaction rating (a score out of 10) taken from the Annual Population Survey 2011-2013. Life satisfaction ratings are grouped as follows: 0 to 4, (low); 5 to 6, (medium); 7 to 8, (high); 9 to 10, (very high).

Happy outliers were determined by comparing the percentile ranks of both salary and happiness for each occupation. Those with the greatest differences in these two ranks (high on happiness, but low on salary) were considered outliers.

The happiest outlying sectors were calculated in a similar fashion to the happy outliers, but average happiness and average salaries were weighted by the number of people employed in each sector.

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5 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. They are happier because the have a greater appreciation of what they have got.

  2. 35 – 500 year olds? I wonder how many they interviewed at the top end of the age spectrum…?

  3. Thanks James… typo corrected!

  4. Wow – I am now fascinated by the happiness of Company Secretaries. I wonder what drives that.

  5. Well normally it is quite difficult to judge human being; as we are changing according to time and period. But in case of happiness I am sure that higher salary will not give any kind of happiness to a person; it is normal that he or she could get happiness in the beginning but later after understanding the secret behind he or she might be get upset or behave normal. Happiness doesn’t come out from higher salary and luxury life; it is directly comes from heart and sometime small thing also bring happiness rather than a big one.

    The above survey will definitely bring some light to my knowledge and it makes us realize that don’t search for happiness in big salaries and big things.

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