It’s official: money doesn’t buy you happiness.
Even millionaires think genuine pleasure is out of reach, despite their fortune – and can only be achieved through even greater wealth.
Moreover, many believe they’d need at least double their net worth to be content.
Researchers at Harvard Business School quizzed 2,000 millionaires for the study, which is considered to be the first of its kind to focus solely on this level of wealth.
Professor Michael Norton, who led the research, asked subjects – the wealthiest clients of an investment bank – to rank their happiness on a scale of one to ten.
He then asked them to specify what net worth would be required for them to reach optimum levels of contentment.
‘Basically everyone says [they’d need] two or three times as much [money],’ Professor Norton told The Atlantic magazine.
Specifically, a quarter of millionaires worth $1.5 million (£1.18 million) said they’d need eleven times more money to be perfectly happy, while one quarter said they would need six times as much.
Another quarter said they would need twice as much money to finally be happy.
Interestingly, this ‘did not differ by wealth’ and the perceived need that more money equates to more happiness was expressed even by those with a net worth of more than $7.6million (£6 million).
‘Our results suggest that the curve does not fully flatten out,’ Professor Norton added.
Similarly, millionaires with wealth of more than £6 million were found to be happier than those with about £1 million, but this only provided ‘modestly greater well-being’, the study said.
However, those who earned their fortune were happier than those who merely inherited it, suggesting that accomplishing goals is key to satisfaction.
The full results of the study were published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Previous research has suggested that money-related happiness plateaus beyond £60,000 per year, but according to some experts, the hunger for limitless wealth is real.
Jeffrey Winters, a political science professor at Northwestern University, based in Evanston, Illinois, told The Times: ‘Every billionaire I’ve spoken to, and I’ve spoken to quite a number of them, is extremely excited by each additional increment of money they make.’
It comes just a few months after scientists found that social mobility is partially written into our genes, essentially determining whether we’re high-flyers or high-earners.
A study of more than 20,000 people in the UK, US and New Zealand found those with certain genetic variations earned more money, had better careers and got further in education.
Regardless of which class they came from, their genes could help them do better in life than their parents before them.
A team of researchers from Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, undertook a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on more than 20,000 individuals from Britain, New Zealand, and the United States who were followed from childhood into adulthood.
The GWAS looked for thousands of tiny changes in genetic code in the individuals that previous studies have linked with success at school.
Unsurprisingly, they found that men and women with ‘genes for education’ – or high polygenic scores – did better academically.
But the same genes also helped make someone upwardly mobile.
Those with a high polygenic score did better in terms of education, occupation, and wealth, compared with their parents and siblings, regardless of the individuals’ familial social class as children.
Lead author Dr Daniel Belsky, from the Department of Population Health Sciences at Duke University, said: ‘Findings from these analyses show that education-linked genetics may provide clues to biological processes in human development that influence success in school, at work, and in the accumulation of wealth across life.’