Money can’t buy love or friendship is an old adage and researchers now say that individuals who base their self-worth on their financial success often feel lonely in everyday life.
The findings, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, emphasize the role of social networks and personal relationships in maintaining good mental health and why people should preserve those connections, even in the face of obstacles or pursuing challenging goals.
“When people base their self-worth on financial success, they experience feelings of pressure and a lack of autonomy, which are associated with negative social outcomes,” said study researcher Lora Park, Associate Professor, University at Buffalo in the US.
“Feeling that pressure to achieve financial goals means we’re putting ourselves to work at the cost of spending time with loved ones, and it’s that lack of time spent with people close to us that are associated with feeling lonely and disconnected,” added Deborah Ward.
Ward said it’s not the financial success that’s problematic or the desire for money that’s leading to these associations.
According to the researchers, when people’s self-worth is contingent on money, they view their financial success as being tied to the core of who they are as a person.
The degree to which they succeed financially relates to how they feel about themselves — feeling good when they think they’re doing well financially, but feeling worthless if they’re feeling financially insecure.
For the findings, the researchers involved more than 2,500 participants over five different studies that looked for relationships between the financial contingency of self-worth and key variables, such as time spent with others, loneliness and social disconnection.
This included a daily diary study that followed participants over a two-week period to assess how they were feeling over an extended time about the importance of money and time spent engaged in various social activities.
“We saw consistent associations between valuing money in terms of who you are and experiencing negative social outcomes in previous work, so this led us to ask the question of why these associations are present,” Ward said.
“We see these findings as further evidence that people who base their self-worth on money are likely to feel pressured to achieve financial success, which is tied to the quality of their relationships with others,” she noted.