Researchers have discovered that happiness and life satisfaction can be achieved even without material wealth.
The prevailing belief that economic growth is the key to happiness has been challenged by this research, which found that many societies with low monetary incomes reported remarkably high levels of life satisfaction, comparable to those in wealthier countries. This revelation raises questions about the universality of the link between wealth and happiness.
Global surveys, such as the World Happiness Report, have often overlooked small-scale societies where monetary exchanges play a minimal role in daily life. These societies rely directly on nature for their livelihoods. By disregarding these communities, previous studies have skewed the understanding of what truly contributes to human well-being.
The study was conducted by the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) in collaboration with McGill University in Canada. The study focused on Indigenous and local communities from 19 different sites worldwide
The survey encompassed 2,966 individuals and revealed that only 64% of the households had any cash income. Despite this, the average life satisfaction score across the studied small-scale societies was an impressive 6.8 out of 10. Some communities even reported scores higher than 8, similar to those of wealthy Scandinavian countries.
Eric Galbraith, lead author of the study and researcher at ICTA-UAB and McGill University, emphasizes that these findings challenge the notion that material wealth generated by industrialized economies is essential for happiness. This opens up new possibilities for sustainable development and human well-being, as it demonstrates that resource-intensive economic growth is not a prerequisite for achieving high levels of subjective well-being.
While the study sheds light on the fact that people in many Indigenous and local communities report high levels of life satisfaction, it does not provide clear-cut reasons for this phenomenon. However, previous research suggests that factors such as strong family and social support systems, spiritual beliefs, and a deep connection to nature play crucial roles in their happiness.