'I Wish I Hadn't Worked So Hard.' Greed and Life Satisfaction
49 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2021 Last revised: 17 Apr 2021
Date Written: March 1, 2021
A palliative nurse listed the most common regrets of the dying in their last days: "I wish I hadn't worked so hard" is among the top, especially for men. We know from philosophers, social scientists, and religious teachings that greed and materialism are vices. Yet, neo-classical economic theory, which dominates current thinking, promotes the maximization of income and consumption as a virtue. In this paper, we test whether wanting \more work and more money" results in human flourishing measured as life satisfaction. We also use additional measures of greed/materialism based on whether respondents agreed with the following statements: \next to health, money is most important," \no right and wrong ways to make money," and \a job is just a way to earn money." Results for all measures concur there are large negative effect sizes of these measures on life satisfaction, on average about half of the positive effect of income. The findings support policies aiming to curb excessive working hours, materialism, and conspicuous/positional consumption. This study is associative, not necessarily causal, and results may not generalize beyond the US, especially where people are less obsessed with work and money.
Keywords: Subjective Well-Being (Swb), Happiness, Life Satisfaction, Working Hours, Greed, Money, Consumerism, Conspicuous Consumption, Materialism
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