Research Report: Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Financial Resources Buffer Subjective Well-Being After the Onset of a Disability

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.