While researchers have actually suggested that people who base their self-worth on their monetary success typically feel lonely in daily life, a newly published research study by the University at Buffalo and Harvard Company School has taken preliminary steps to much better comprehend 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 Character and Social Psychology Bulletin, highlight the function of social media networks and personal relationships in preserving excellent mental health and why people need to maintain those connections, even in the face of challenges 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 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 monetary success that’s troublesome or the desire for cash that’s causing these associations.
At the center of this research is a principle psychologists identify as Financial Contingency of Self-Worth. When individuals’s self-regard is contingent on money, they see their monetary success as being tied to the core of who they are as a person. The degree to which they prosper financially relates to how they feel about themselves– feeling excellent when they believe they’re succeeding economically, however feeling useless if they’re feeling economically insecure.
The research involved more than 2,500 participants over five various studies that tried to find relationships between monetary contingency of self-worth and crucial variables, such as time invested with others, loneliness and social disconnection. This included an everyday journal study that followed participants over a two-week duration to assess how they were feeling over an extended time about the significance of cash and time invested 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 states the existing study represents the start of efforts to discover 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.”