There is ample evidence that adults with lower incomes tend to have worse outcomes including worse health, lower life expectancy and lower subjective wellbeing than individuals with more. But is money in adulthood itself important? Or are these relationships driven by other factors such as higher levels of education, underlying personality traits or the long-term impact of childhood circumstances? This study reviews the evidence, focusing on research that tested whether the relationship between money and outcomes in adulthood is causal.
The review identified 54 studies that were able to test the effect of money on adult outcomes. This evidence suggests that money in adulthood does itself matter for wider adult outcomes, but this is clearer for some outcomes than for others. There is strong evidence that additional financial resources make people happier and reduce mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Money also gives people more choices in a range of areas of life, including decisions about relationships, employment and education.