Do Higher Wages Equal More Employee Happiness?

Do Higher Wages Equal More Employee Happiness?

Often, both employers and employees believe that a higher wage will increase happiness within the workforce.

However, The CPD Standards Office, providers of CPD accreditation have collated data from The ONS to finally answer that age-old questions, can money buy happiness?

We can all agree that money cannot buy us good health, love or family but it can ease some strain on our lives which can make daily living easier and can lead to increased happiness levels.

Employees often strive for promotions and the most common reason for this is to obtain a higher salary, but in doing so, will our happiness increase?

The purpose of the study was to determine whether a money and happiness correlation exists and the study revealed some interesting results.

Industries with Correlations Between Average Weekly Salary and Happiness

When asked their level of happiness, respondents were asked to rate this on a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being completely unhappy and 10 being completely happy.

This was then compared against average weekly earning levels to see if there was any correlation. The industries with the highest correlation were as follows:

  1. Retail, trade, and repairs - 92.01%
  2. Accommodation and food service activities - 88.91%
  3. Education
  4. Administrative and support service activities - 87.4%
  5. Manufacturing  - engineering and allied industries - 86.3%

Those with the lowest correlation were:

  1. Mining and quarrying  - 22.15%
  2. Professional, scientific and technical activities - 26.18%
  3. Manufacturing - chemicals and man-made fibres - 33.22%
  4. Real estate activities - 33.68%
  5. Financial and insurance activities - 34.30%

Respondents were not asked to provide specific data as to why their happiness levels were this, but we can speculate.

Those industries who reported a low correlation with happiness and average weekly earnings are often roles that are stressful and demanding. To compensate for this, wages are typically higher but the impact of this career may not allow happiness to increase, the health implications of mining and quarrying would be a good example of this.

However, this does not mean those who showed a high correlation are not stressful roles, rather than employees feel a higher salary can reduce these stress levels and provide a positive impact on their happiness.

Administrative, skill and trade based jobs showed a higher correlation with happiness and average weekly earnings overall.

Industries with Correlations Between Average Weekly Earnings and Anxiety

Anxiety levels were scored in a similar fashion to happiness, with 0 possessing no anxiety and 10 being highly anxious.

The industries that scored the highest correlation with anxiety and average weekly earnings were:

  1. Retail, trade, and repairs - 74.52%
  2. Manufacturing - other - 72.07%
  3. Manufacturing - engineering and allied industries - 70.67%
  4. Education - 68.51%
  5. Accommodation and food service activities - 68.04%

These correlations were not as strong as the 80%+ that was shown with happiness levels but they are still strong enough to draw a conclusion.

The majority of industries that reported high correlations with happiness also reported the same with anxiety.

It is a common mistake that those with anxiety can not be happy. However, this is not true and you can be happy alongside having high anxiety levels. We can see from these results that as wages increase, so do anxiety levels, most likely from increasing job responsibility.

It was interesting to find that health and social work, an industry infamous for high anxiety levels, showed the lowest correlation at just 53.40%. So as wages increase, anxiety levels remain the same.

Those That Reported as Living Comfortably or Completely Satisfied with Income Reported Higher Levels of Anxiety.

Income satisfaction was scored subjectively on how happy employees were with their salary and was broken into:

  • Completely satisfied
  • Mostly satisfied
  • Somewhat satisfied
  • Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
  • Somewhat dissatisfied
  • Mostly dissatisfied
  • Completely dissatisfied

Respondents were also asked how they are coping financially and answers were broken into:

  • Living comfortably
  • Doing alright
  • Just about getting by
  • Finding it quite difficult
  • Finding it very difficult

Those who stated they were ‘living comfortably’ reported a high correlation with anxiety at 89.97%, while those who were ‘completely satisfied’ with their income reported a level of 65.68%.

We can take from this that as wages increase so does stress and leads to higher anxiety levels.

Income Satisfaction and Happiness

Income satisfaction does not always mean higher wages, those on a more modest income can still report satisfaction in their earnings.

The industries that had the highest correlation between income satisfaction and happiness were:

  1. Retail, trade, and repairs - 87.81%
  2. Administrative and support service activities - 87.74%
  3. Education - 85.71%
  4. Accommodation and food service activities - 84.87%
  5. Health and social work - 81.98%

The lowest-scoring industries were as follows:

  1. Mining and quarrying - 9.28%
  2. Professional, scientific and technical activities - 24.15%
  3. Manufacturing - chemicals and man-made fibres - 29.18%
  4. Financial and insurance activities - 29.46%
  5. Real estate activities - 29.95%

Most likely due to poor working conditions, mining and quarrying have very little correlation, regardless of the salary, negative impacts on workers’ health will lead to a negative outlook.

Overall, we can see that money can bring happiness, but only within certain industries and as long as we are willing to take on higher levels of anxiety.

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  • Wendy Garvie

    Great one!!!!

  • Boris Perry


  • Jack Barrett

    It doesn't matter what we want, once we get it, then we want something else.

  • Helen Calthorpe

    Good stuff

  • Victor Larignon

    There’s more to life than working & consuming everything

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Amanda Rosewarne

CPD Guru

Amanda Rosewarne has a background in occupational psychology, extensive experience in the CPD field, and is a unique expert on the provision of workplace training and CPD learning. As CEO and Co-Founder of the CPD Standards Office, she advises a multitude of organisations, from professional bodies to corporate employers, to small training providers on 'becoming CPD ready' and implementing CPD best practice within their organisations. 

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