Competitive People Often Miserable, Says Study

People with a strong tendency to compare themselves with others are often wealthy but unhappy, according to a study.

Kim Hee-sam at the Korea Development Institute studied 3,000 Koreans between 20 and 69.

The tendency of people to compare themselves with others was assessed on a scale from one to five. Any increase of one point translated into a 28.9 percent higher annual salary than people who ranked one point lower.

"Individuals who scored higher on the scale tended to be more competitive and to take risks to make more money."

But people with a strong tendency to compare their lives with those of others were also big spenders and lived on credit. Every one point increase on the scale translated into a 9.2 percent more time devoted to shopping, while spending on conspicuous products such as cars or expensive electronics increased 41.7 percent.

People's tendency to compare themselves with others went hand in hand with a decrease in satisfaction with their lives. Happiness was gauged on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the happiest, and the study showed that every one-point rise on the comparison scale led to a 0.237 point drop in happiness.

People in the affluent Gangnam, Seocho and Songpa districts of southern Seoul displayed particularly high scores on the comparison scale. The scale did not take into account gender, age and income.

Those in the three districts on average showed 0.43 point higher scores compared to people in other parts of the capital and 0.48 point higher than residents of Gyeonggi Province surrounding Seoul.

They also scored higher than all six other metropolitan cities. People in the southern port city of Busan were least prone to comparing themselves with others at 0.53 points lower than those in Gangnam, Seocho and Songpa.

Those in Daegu were the most competitive at only 0.14 points lower.

"Koreans have a strong tendency to compare themselves with others and this translates into a higher chance of considering themselves failures based on income," Kim said.

englishnews@chosun.com / Aug. 23, 2014 08:16 KST