Happy, healthy, wealthy and wise: Linking your mood and money

First off, congratulations! You've made it to the last two weeks of classes before finals i.e. Hell. But fear not! If you thought there couldn't possibly be any more for you to worry about, this latest health report may change your mind.

Everyone has that super perky (read: annoying) friend who loves life and is filled with a genuinely unending happiness. They always seem ready to tackle life early in the morning and can’t help but be super excited and super ready to tackle all of their midterms and the eventual life after college.

Meanwhile, you’re sitting in O’Neill late at night trying to finish an enormous amount of homework (read: on Facebook) that all seems to be due in the same week, essentially hating all that life has set you up for. Well a new study suggests that your super happy friend is set to make more money than you in the future. Happier teens, it seems, grow up to be richer adults, according to the study.

In the latest Proceedings of the National Association of Sciences Teenagers, a study looked at and compared thousands of teenagers and found that people who had a more positive outlook on life as young adults tended to have higher incomes by the time they turned 29.  Astoundingly, adults who identified themselves as happy youngsters earned an average of $8,000 more than those who were the least joyful.

Even when factoring in other variables like IQ, education level, self-esteem and even height, happy kids still made more money as adults. No matter how smart, the emo, pessimistic teens earned 10 percent their more perky counterparts, while the really enthusiastic ones earned up to 30 percent more than their less chipper peers.

One theory for why this enthusiasm gap exists is that happy kids better cope with the struggles college and work come packaged with because they have happier dispositions in general. Happy people’s lives are also made easier because people actually want to be around them, which makes it easier to professionally network.

“These findings show that the emotional well-being of children and adolescents is key to their future success,” Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, one of the report’s authors, wrote. “Yet another reason to ensure we create emotionally healthy home environments.”

Science also tells us that some people simply will not be able to help it and are doomed to make less money. We all know those jokes about the English majors and Starbucks, but there may be some scientific evidence to back up that creative people won’t make money.

Scientists have found that students who enjoy the arts are more likely to feel depressed and coupled with this study about income, they are likely to use less money. The study comes from one of our own here at Boston College, and is the first to link casual involvement in music, drama and art with symptoms of mental illness in young adults.

Using a sample of 2,482 15- to 16-year-old adolescents. Teens involved in afterschool arts had higher depressive symptom scores than those not involved, and the association between arts involvement and depressive symptoms held only for those scoring above the median in working memory test scores. We consider reasons for these findings, including the possibility that shared cognitive vulnerabilities may underlie both the depressive symptoms and increased arts practice, and that cognitive resources (working memory) facilitate the adaptive use of these vulnerabilities.

“A higher than average incidence of psychological disorders in adult artists (visual artists, writers, musicians, actors) or creative individuals has been reported in numerous studies, for a wide range of disorders: unipolar depression, bipolar disorder, ‘positive’ schizotypy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and substance abuse,” the report said.

“This theoretical orientation is particularly relevant to a study investigating mental illness in adolescents, who are characterized by a more diffuse symptomology that seems to have an affective core of depressive symptoms,” according to the study.  As the study suggests, there are certain cognitive vulnerabilities for people who have the mental flexibility that allows for the creative side in some people to flourish.

Established adult artists – i.e. those who have committed their lives to the arts – not only tend to be unhappy (to say the least) and make less money, but they usually started off as unhappy teens and young adults.

“Our analyses demonstrate that adolescents experiencing depressive symptoms are more likely to be involved in afterschool arts than their less-dysphoric counterparts. Although previous studies have provided evidence of a higher than expected incidence of affective and thought disorders in eminent arts and creative adults, the study reported here demonstrates, for the first time, high than expected depressive symptoms in adolescents with only casual arts involvement, most of whom are certainly unlikely to go on to become eminent artists. This finding suggests that the link between artistry and a tendency toward psychological disorder is broader than previous research has suggested, extending down in age and reaching out to those with interests and abilities in the arts not sufficiently powerful to propel them to become artists.”

Born and raised in Detroit, MI, Jasmine has been working with Gavel Media since her sophomore year. She is a part of the class of 2013 and is a Political Science and Islamic Civilizations & Societies major. Follow on Twitter @j00ma.