Think Owning a Home Will Bring Happiness? Think Again.
What’s the Latest Development?
Homeownership has long been thought of as a cornerstone of the American Dream, that route to happiness in a country of limitless upward mobility. But as psychologists continue to investigate the component parts of wellbeing, it seems that spending money on large possessions is not one of them. “A 2011 study of about 600 women in Ohio found that homeowners weren’t any happier than renters. … Indeed, homeowners spent less time on leisure activities with friends and reported that they derived some pain from homeownership. … [F]inancial experts say that people who make the leap from renting to buying can be caught off guard by the nuts and bolts.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Elizabeth Dunn, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who studies consumerism and happiness, works to debunk people’s ingrained notions of happiness. “What matters for our happiness,” Dr. Dunn said, “is what we do in the minutes and hours of our day.” When shopping for a home, she recommends asking yourself, “How will this purchase change the way I spend my time next Tuesday?” A separate phenomenon known to psychologists as hedonic adaptation describes the diminishing returns of a new object or experience, in terms of the happiness we derive from it, due to our ability to adapt to our present psychological circumstances.
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