Nav: Home

Money can't buy love -- or friendship

April 09, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. - While researchers have suggested that individuals who base their self-worth on their financial success often feel lonely in everyday life, a newly published study by the University at Buffalo and Harvard Business School has taken initial steps to better understand why this link exists.

"When people base their self-worth on financial success, they experience feelings of pressure and a lack of autonomy, which are associated with negative social outcomes," says Lora Park, an associate professor of psychology at UB and one of the paper's co-authors.

"Feeling that pressure to achieve financial goals means we're putting ourselves to work at the cost of spending time with loved ones, and it's that lack of time spent with people close to us that's associated with feeling lonely and disconnected," says Deborah Ward, a UB graduate student and adjunct faculty member at the UB's psychology department who led the research on a team that also included Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, Kristin Naragon-Gainey, at the University of Western Australia, and Han Young Jung, a former UB graduate student.

The findings, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, emphasize the role of social networks and personal relationships in maintaining good mental health and why people should preserve those connections, even in the face of obstacles or pursuing challenging goals.

"Depression and anxiety are tied to isolation, and we're certainly seeing this now with the difficulties we have connecting with friends during the COVID-19 pandemic," says Ward. "These social connections are important. We need them as humans in order to feel secure, to feel mentally healthy and happy. But much of what's required to achieve success in the financial domain comes at the expense of spending time with family and friends."

Ward says it's not financial success that's problematic or the desire for money that's leading to these associations.

At the center of this research is a concept psychologists identify as Financial Contingency of Self-Worth. When people's self-worth is contingent on money, they view their financial success as being tied to the core of who they are as a person. The degree to which they succeed financially relates to how they feel about themselves -- feeling good when they think they're doing well financially, but feeling worthless if they're feeling financially insecure.

The research involved more than 2,500 participants over five different studies that looked for relationships between financial contingency of self-worth and key variables, such as time spent with others, loneliness and social disconnection. This included a daily diary study that followed participants over a two-week period to assess how they were feeling over an extended time about the importance of money and time spent engaged in various social activities.

"We saw consistent associations between valuing money in terms of who you are and experiencing negative social outcomes in previous work, so this led us to ask the question of why these associations are present," says Ward. "We see these findings as further evidence that people who base their self-worth on money are likely to feel pressured to achieve financial success, which is tied to the quality of their relationships with others."

Ward says the current study represents the beginning of efforts to uncover the processes at work with Financial Contingency of Self-Worth.

"I hope this is part of what becomes a longer line of research looking at the mechanisms between valuing money and social-related variables," says Ward. "We don't have the final answer, but there is a lot of evidence that pressures are largely playing a role."
-end-


University at Buffalo

Related Research Articles:

More Research News and Research Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.