Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Money and Mental Health.

Does sanity make us rich or do riches make us sane? Probably a bit of both.

Money may not make us happy but poverty surely makes us miserable.

A photo posted by Richard Ford ( on

Feeling we have not reached our potential makes us miserable while fish and moving water makes us happy again. Stagnant water has no effect.

We have become a rather lonely people. We have replaced authentic human loyalty with an online network. and it is quite possible to become lonely without even knowing it. Years later we wonder how we fell into an abusive relationship or into cult like beliefs. The truth was that we were filling a gap we did not know we had.

We should take the early signs of loneliness as seriously as we would take a physical illness. Loneliness kills and it is not our imagination that there seem to be more crazy people around than there were.

What make us happy and sane? Having more than our neighbors helps a great deal. This may seem mean spirited but the pleasure is not in watching them suffer- it is in appreciating what we have more keenly. The lesson seems to be - move to a poor neighborhood!

Relative poverty, social isolation and mental illness form an unholy triple alliance. It is impossible to know which factor causes the others but we know that dealing with one often resolves the triangle.

The chart below was produced by the Equality Trust and purports to show that income inequality within a nation leads to mental illness. I believe it shows something slightly different. I think it shows that the sense of failure leads to mental illness. This sense of failure may well be set off by being noticeably poorer than ones peers. It is not created by poverty itself. 

Interestingly we see that Catholic countries such as Spain Italy and (to a degree) Germany do quite well on this chart. This may be because these societies judge their members by their conduct within the family. Poor people can always improve their family life even in bad times. In any case God will forgive the catholic his failures in life provided he is sincerely sorry for them.

Some nations such as the USA believe themselves to be meritocracies. This means a poor person can only blame himself for his misfortune. There can be no forgiveness for the American failure. Sincere regret at his mistakes means nothing. Only money brings salvation.

This may also explain why certain societies are more gullible than others. The USA has produced a plethora of miracle cures for poverty from Amway to The Secret. These may be symptoms of the acute psychological pain an American feels while poor.

Nations such as the United Kingdom do better on the mental health stakes than the USA and this may be because we do not believe we are a meritocracy. The British love to complain about political correctness or the class system. If ones boss was an Eaton schoolboy there is no reason to beat oneself up about not being more successful than him. We came from Bash Street comprehensive and this absolves us from all guilt.

I have met a number of religious people at Speakers Corner in London who all suffered from acute depression (which they describe as demonic) before finding their faith. This resulted in a change of criteria they judge themselves and relief from the depression. They remain deeply disturbed people but appear happier within themselves.

It is therefore of great practical significance that we find better criteria to judge ourselves. The choice we make will determine how happy we are and even if we remain sane.

There is quite a lot of information on how to be happy and its relationship with money. The general points are as follows.

Have good friends. These will not only make you happier but will cause you to make better money decisions. Lonely people fall for charlatans and spend money trying to cheer themselves up.
It is the game that matters and not the final score. Making money from money is fun. Like all enjoyable games there is a skill element and a luck element. If your luck is bad- forgive yourself. Simply play the best game you can.

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