Income disparity causes unhappiness: study

Thu Jun 16, 2011 2:34pm EDT
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By Bernd Debusmann Jr.

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - As the rich get richer and the poor fall further behind, levels of happiness and satisfaction drop, but only among people with modest and lower incomes, a new study shows.

The finding holds true for about 60 percent of Americans, according to research that will be published in the journal Psychological Science.

"Income disparity has grown a lot in the U.S., especially since the 1980s. With that, we've seen a marked drop in life satisfaction and happiness," said Shigehiro Oishi, a psychologist at the University of Virginia.

"In general, CEO salary increased tremendously, while that of the average workers hasn't that much," he said in an interview.

"I think you can take any occupation in the US and the disparity grew."

The researchers assessed the link between income disparity and unhappiness by analyzing data from more than 48,000 people who responded to the General Social Survey between the years of 1972 and 2008.

They compared their sense of how honest other Americans were with their income and a scientific measure of national income equality.

The researchers found that the bigger the disparity in the income gap, the less likely people are to view fellow Americans as fair or honest. This, in turn, leads to a degraded sense of general well-being.   Continued...

<p>A participant walks past a poster at the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong January 20, 2010. REUTERS/Bobby Yip</p>