Health, wealth, and happiness: financial resources buffer subjective well-being after the onset of a disability

Psychol Sci. 2005 Sep;16(9):663-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01592.x.


We examined the hypothesis that the relationship between financial status and subjective well-being, typically found to be very small in cross-sectional studies, is moderated by health status. Specifically, we predicted that wealth would buffer well-being after the onset of a disability. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal study of people at and approaching retirement age, we employed within-subjects analyses to test whether wealth measured prior to the onset of a disability protected participants' well-being from some of the negative effects of a new disability. We found support for this hypothesis: Participants who were above the median in total net worth reported a much smaller decline in well-being after a new disability than did participants who were below the median. We also found some evidence that the buffering effect of wealth faded with time, as below-median participants recovered some of their well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Happiness*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors