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Money can't buy happiness, but try being hopeful and broke at the same time.
- A new study finds money alone doesn't make people happy, they need some hope for the future too.
- The study adds to the increasing pile of literature on the subject of how hope influences our wellbeing.
- The findings, particularly on when this effect doesn't work, may have implications for future policy decisions.
Can you buy happiness? Maybe, not, but you can rent hope for the future.<p>Five hundred fifteen American participants selected from the Prolific platform were involved in the study. However, many of them failed to answer all relevant questions over the three years of the study.</p><p>Participants were asked each year to fill out a questionnaire covering their income level, their life satisfaction, overall happiness, experiences of positive and negative emotions, and expectations on their future standard of living. They were contacted multiple times over three years to determine if changes in income impacted their levels of hope and life satisfaction. Their answers were then statistically analyzed for relationships. </p><p>To the surprise of nobody, those making more money tended to report higher levels of life satisfaction. Also, as expected, higher levels of income tied to higher levels of hope. Increases in hope were strongly and directly linked to improved levels of satisfaction, and the ability of statistical models to predict how happy a participant was more than doubled by adding in their levels of hope.</p><p>However, the effect didn't exist for those making less than $1800 a month; increases in income below that point didn't increase hopefulness much. It is worth noting that this is around the poverty line for a multi-person household with children at the time of the study. The authors speculate that "This might be explained by the (lack of) capabilities that an income below $1800 can offer," and note that many of their test subjects would fit into the category of multi-person households at that level. </p><p>It seems money can buy happiness, or at least hope, but that it is more expensive than many people can afford. </p><p>The study does have a few caveats. While the study's demographics were similar to that of the United States overall, there were points of significant departure. Notably, the median test taker made less than the median American, was more likely to be unreligious, and rated their overall happiness slightly lower than other tests show Americans tend to do. While these differences may not prove substantial, the mentioned findings held up across all demographics involved in the survey; they may temper claims of how universal the results are.</p><p>The authors themselves admit that casualty cannot be inferred from these findings. It might be the case that a higher income causes people to be hopeful, which, in turn, improves their level of life satisfaction, or it could be that the causation runs the other way- with optimistic people making more money as a result of their already being hopeful.</p><p>In any situation, hope does mediate the relationship between income and life satisfaction. While perhaps intuitive, this finding will advance the literature on the subject and has many practical applications.</p>
I hope this study has some practical takeaways I can use.<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/JyzoIYqmzMQ" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>This study provides further evidence that while having at least enough money to get by on is necessary for happiness, it is not having piles of money alone that makes people happy. It appears that it is what people can do, or at least believe they can do, as a result of having more money that actually increases their wellbeing. People looking to improve their outlook on life might do well to remember this.</p><p>The authors also suggest that there are policy implications in these findings. They conclude their study by pointing out:</p><p><em>"Our findings signal that policy aimed at increasing wellbeing through higher wages should take into account that the stability of income matters, and that only over a certain threshold income can offer enough possibilities to invest in a better future and as such create more hopeful and happy lives."</em></p><p>That is, since the hope, income, and satisfaction relation only kicked in above a certain income level, any policy geared towards improving people's lives will have to focus on getting them above that level to see lasting effects. </p><p>The findings of this study suggest that having enough money to stay above water can make people happier and that the more of it they have the better they think the future will be. While this means that money can't buy happiness, it does mean that it is associated with thinking you'll be happy someday. In the end, that might be close enough. <em><br> <br> <br></em></p>
The 20th century was marked by waves of pro-democracy revolutions. Now, the future of democracy looks uncertain.
- A recent paper examined the status of democracy among the world's countries.
- The paper outlines three key indicators showing that democracy is generally declining worldwide, and it lists several potential reasons for the decline.
- Surveys indicate that nearly half of U.S. citizens are dissatisfied with how democracy is playing out on the national level.
Diamond<p><strong></strong><span style="background-color: initial;"><strong>Democratic freedoms have receded: </strong></span>Four different scales that measure levels of democracy — <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/" target="_blank">Freedom House</a>, the Economist Intelligence Unit, and V-Dem's Liberal and Electoral Democracy indices — "agree that there has been a modest negative trend for the advanced Anglophone and West European democracies, a more substantial slide for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean above one million population, and erosion – but of widely varying extent – in Sub-Saharan Africa." Meanwhile, those same scales found significant improves in freedom among South Asian and former Soviet nations.</p><p><strong>Democratic breakdown has accelerated:</strong> The past five years have seen more democracies crumble than any other five-year period since the third wave of democratization began in the mid-1970s. During that same period, the number of nations that switched to democracy was the lowest it's been in decades.</p>
What explains the global democratic recession?<p>The paper notes that, while military leaders and revolutions have toppled past democracies, the past decade or so "has mainly been an era of civilian assaults on democracy." In other words, it seems as if a large share of citizens in democratic nations are — wittingly or unwittingly — supporting the erosion of democracy, at least as it currently exists.</p><p>Populist candidates, Diamond suggests, have been able to rise to power by "inflaming divisions and mobilizing the good, deserving "people" against corrupt elites – the professional or "deep" state and their effete, educated handmaidens in the other (liberal) political parties – as well as a host of alien threats, such as international institutions, refugees and migrants, and "undeserving" minorities who really don't "belong" in the country."</p><p>Noting there's no "master" explanation for the democratic recession, the paper outlines several potential contributors, like:</p><p><strong>The erosion of political norms and institutions</strong>: Autocrats tend to have an easier time gaining power when political parties are weak, citizens aren't committed to democratic ideals, the rule of law is weak, and there's a lack of horizontal accountability, such as independent courts and legislatures.</p><p><strong>International context:</strong> Amid the chaos and failures of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the world began to adopt a more "pessimistic view of democracy promotion." The 2008 recession had a similar effect. Diamond wrote: "If the world's most powerful democracy could spawn a financial crisis that almost produced a global depression; if the world's largest collection of democracies (the E.U.) could not manage its borders or accommodate the rising tide of refugees and migrants due to wars and revolutions, then maybe democracy was not such a great system after all."</p>
Comparison of Democratic versus other types of governments in 1977 and 2017
Pew Research Center<p><strong><span style="background-color: initial;">Russian rage and Chinese ambition</span></strong><strong>:</strong> Although the U.S. remains a superpower, these two "authoritarian projects" are working to undermine liberal values around the world by using "sharp power," which the paper defines as operating "in the shadows to compromise institutions," unlike soft power, which "seeks to inspire and persuade transparently though attraction and the power of example."</p><p><strong>Global socio-economic trends:</strong></p><ul><li>Social and digital media: Helpful to democratic movements in a sense, the rise of the internet also made it easier for bad-faith actors to spread disinformation and group hatred.</li><li>The economic shift from manufacturing to finance has accelerated wealth inequality, leading to class resentments and leaving nations vulnerable to populism.</li><li>The rise of China displaced workers in the U.S. and similar nations, "further aggravating social and economic insecurities and resentments."</li><li>The long-term impact of neoliberal economic policies: "In the United States, this freed up financial markets to engage in ever riskier and more speculative lending and financial transactions. The final element was the growing economic instability of this potent mixture – deregulation, digitization, financialization, globalization – resulting in the 2008 financial crash, which, since it originated in the U.S. further badly damaged the reputation of democracy, as well as the resources and political self-confidence of the United States."</li></ul>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)<p>Diamond concludes the paper by warning that the global community is "perilously close to and indeed have probably already entered what [<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_P._Huntington" target="_blank">Samuel P. Huntington</a>] would have called a "third reverse wave," that is, a period in world history in which the number of transitions away from democracy significantly outnumber those to democracy."</p><p>By survey results, most people seem to <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/02/27/democratic-rights-popular-globally-but-commitment-to-them-not-always-strong/" target="_blank">value democratic rights</a>, yet many are dissatisfied with how democracy is playing out on national levels. In the U.S., U.K., Japan and France, more than half of citizens say they're dissatisfied with democracy. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean people want autocracy.</p><p>But it does beg the question: What kinds of leaders and governing styles will dissatisfied citizens be willing to entertain — or unwilling to resist — if democracy doesn't find a way to reinvent itself in the 21st century?</p>
Yet 80 percent of respondents want to reduce their risk of dementia.
- A new MDVIP/Ipsos survey found that only 35 percent of Americans know the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
- Eighty percent of respondents said they want to reduce their risks.
- An estimated 7.1 million Americans over the age of 65 will suffer from Alzheimer's by 2025.
Credit: logika600 / Shutterstock<p>Remaining healthy requires regular screenings. Here again we see a disassociation between risk reduction and proactivity. Seventy-seven percent of respondents don't talk to their doctors about lifestyle habits that support brain health; 51 percent have never been screened for depression; 44 percent have never had a neurological exam; and 32 percent have never been screened for hearing problems. </p><p>Common early warning signs of dementia, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to</a> Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, include repetitive questions and stories, difficulties with complex daily tasks, and trouble with orientation. </p><p>In terms of intervention, <a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/does-lack-of-exercise-lead-to-dementia" target="_self">exercise</a>, <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/obesity-dementia" target="_self">diet</a>, building a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/brain-reserve" target="_self">brain reserve</a>, and challenging your brain (such as learning a new language or musical instrument) are all proven methods for staving off the ravages of Alzheimer's. Oxytocin has also <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/alzheimers-oxytocin" target="_self">showed promise</a> in brain-addled mice, while researchers found positive results for a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/intermittent-fasting" target="_self">group of intermittent fasters</a> in promoting neurogenesis. </p><p>Epidemiologist Bryan James says that dementia is <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/04/15/176920391/how-exercise-and-other-activities-beat-back-dementia" target="_blank">not an inevitable result</a> of aging. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It's simply not pre-destined for all human beings. Lots of people live into their 90s and even 100s with no symptoms of dementia." </p><p>Professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, Andrew Budson, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends</a> aerobic exercise and the Mediterranean diet. As has long been known, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and healthy fasts like nuts and olive oil seem to have brain-boosting properties. </p><p>To learn more, take the <a href="https://www.mdvip.com/brain-health-iq-quiz" target="_blank">Brain Health IQ quiz</a>.</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
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