Are Happy Kids More Likely to Be Rich? Credit: Dreamstime.com

Teens wanting to increase their chances of being rich when they get older should cheer up, new research shows.

A University College London study discovered that happy adolescents are likely to earn more money as adults.

Based on data from 15,000 teenagers and young adults in the United States, researchers found that those who report higher positive affect, a technical measure of happiness, or higher life satisfaction, grow up to earn significantly higher levels of income later in life.

Specifically, the research shows that that a one-point increase in life satisfaction (on a scale of 5) at the age of 22 is associated with almost $2,000 higher earnings per year at the age of 29.

The study found that happy individuals' greater wealth is due, in part, to the fact that happy people are more likely to get a degree, find work and get promoted more quickly than their gloomier counterparts.

"These findings show that the emotional well-being of children and adolescents is key to their future success," said Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, one of the study's authors. "Yet another reason to ensure we create emotionally healthy home environments."

As part of the study, the researchers paid careful attention to instances of siblings in the data. The research revealed that even in children growing up in the same family, happier youngsters tend to go on to earn higher levels of income.

De Neve said the results have important implications for academics and policymakers.

"For academics, they reveal the strong possibility for reverse causality between income and happiness —  a relationship that most have assumed unidirectional and causal," De Neve said. "For policymakers, they highlight the importance of promoting general well-being, not just because happiness is what the general population aspires to, but also for its economic impact."

The study, which was co-authored by University of Warwick professor Andrew Oswald, was published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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