Money can't buy happiness, as the saying goes, but varying levels of income can lead to positive well-being depending on the cost of living and where you live in the world, according to a report by money website Expensivity.
The global average of the price of happiness is $85,000 a year, according to Expensivity, which calculated the cost of happiness for 160 countries by combining data from Purdue University's Happiness, income satiation and turning points around the world report, purchasing power ratios from the World Bank and cost-of-living figures in cities.
At $143,933 a year, the most expensive country to be happy is Bermuda, while the cheapest is Suriname in South America, where it costs just $6,799, the Expensivity study found.
In 2018, the Purdue University study, which is based on data from the Gallup World Poll of 1.7 million people, found that there is an ideal level of money that could make a person happy – and it varies around the world.
"That might be surprising as what we see on TV and what advertisers tell us we need would indicate that there is no ceiling when it comes to how much money is needed for happiness, but we now see there are some thresholds," Andrew T. Jebb, the lead author of the study, was quoted by Purdue University as saying at the time.
“It’s been debated at what point does money no longer change your level of well-being. We found that the ideal income point is $95,000 for life evaluation and $60,000 to $75,000 for emotional well-being. Again, this amount is for individuals and would likely be higher for families.”
Meanwhile, other countries where happiness comes at a high price include Australia at $135,321, Israel ($130,457) and Switzerland ($128,969), where the cost of living is considered high, the Expensivity report said. In the US, a yearly income of $105,000 is sufficient to be happy.
While Suriname is the world's cheapest country for happiness, Argentina ranks second at $8,778, followed by Angola ($8,921) and Kyrgyzstan ($8,997), owing to a lower cost of living.
However, the happiness cost of $6,799 in Suriname is out of reach for many who earn an average income of $5,500, the research found.
“A higher income helps to reduce stress levels with regards to knowing that you have a house to live in and can afford to put food on the table every day," Soniyaa Pubjabi, wellness coach and founder of Dubai-based Illuminations Well Being Centre, said.
"But once you have the money to have a middle-class standard of living, other things matter more – like how content you are with your life.
“Factors such as having a strong support system, family and friends who care about you, having time to pursue your hobbies and interests, staying healthy as you age, and growing spiritually come into play.”
In the Gulf, Qatar has the highest happiness price tag at $75,936, followed by Kuwait at $71,537 and the UAE with $70,771 per annum. Happiness is more affordable in Oman at $61,021, Bahrain ($56,901) and Saudi Arabia ($54,263), according to Expensivity.
Meanwhile, the cost of happiness in South-East Asia is below the global average of $85,000 in every country, ranging from $15,643 in Pakistan to $46,078 in Singapore.
Happiness in India costs $20,235 a year, while in China, it is much higher at $70,848.
The price of happiness varies more in Europe than in any other continent, according to the Expensivity report. Due to the high cost of living, happiness in Switzerland is the most expensive in Europe.
However, the report found that happiness is less expensive in Eastern Europe. In Ukraine, the point at which more money no longer brings more happiness occurs at $11,301 – the lowest for any country in Europe, Expensivity said.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the maximum level of happiness occurs at just $40,000 on average.
Meanwhile, goods and services are generally cheaper in South America, which means a lower cost of living and happiness price tag. The most expensive country to find happiness on the continent is Uruguay at $21,261.
Among global cities, the price of happiness is highest in New York City at $139,183. Outside the US, the city with the highest price of happiness is Bern, Switzerland, at $128,969, while Oslo has a happiness price tag of $114,147 followed by London with $110,000.
“Cities are more expensive to live in and, as a result, the maximum level of happiness – or satiation point – occurs at a higher cost point,” the research said.