Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Balance

Font Size

Unselfish Spending Boosts Happiness

To Be Happier, Spending Money on Others Beats Spending on Yourself, Study Shows
WebMD Health News

March 20, 2008 -- Want to feel happier? Spending money on other people or charities may make you feel better than splurging on something for yourself.

Researchers report that news in tomorrow's edition of Science.

First, they asked 632 Americans to rate their general happiness and report their income and spending, including bills, gifts for others, gifts for themselves, and charitable donations.

The happiest people were the biggest givers, no matter what they earned, note the researchers, who included Elizabeth Dunn, PhD, of the psychology department at Canada's University of British Columbia.

"Regardless of how much income each person made, those who spent money on others reported greater happiness, while those who spent more on themselves did not," Dunn says in a news release.

Next, Dunn's team asked 16 employees at a Boston company to rate their happiness one month before receiving a bonus from their company, and again six to eight weeks after getting the bonus.

The workers also reported how they spent the bonus. Those who gave more of their bonus money to other people or charities were happier after getting the bonus.

Big bonus, small bonus -- that didn't matter. It wasn't about the size of the check; it was about how it was spent.

Giving in Action

Surveys are one thing. But what happens when people have cash in hand, and an order to spend that money before sundown?

Dunn and colleagues gave $5 or $20 to 46 people on the University of British Columbia's Vancouver campus. With the cash came instructions to spend the money by 5 p.m.

Some participants were told to spend the money on their rent, bills, or a gift for themselves. Others were told to use the money to buy someone else a gift or to donate it to charity.

Once again, the givers were the happiest at the end of the day, according to surveys they completed before getting the cash and after spending it.

And as with the corporate bonus, the amount of money didn't matter. People didn't have to give away $20 to feel better; giving as little as $5 helped.

"Our findings suggest that very minor alterations in spending allocations -- as little as $5 ... may be sufficient to produce nontrivial gains in happiness on a given day," Dunn's team writes.

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
Take your medication
Hand appearing to hold the sun
Hungover man
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Woman worn out on couch
Happy and sad faces
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
laughing family