Devoting money to social events helps ease migrant depression, studies show.
Mass migration is changing the outlook and culture of communities worldwide. Due to lowered immigration security and low-cost travel options, communities and families are moving to vastly different places than their home countries. Migrants around the world on average make more money in their new country than in their original home, but they experience barriers to overall happiness due to increased discrimination stemming from cultural differences that are hard to overcome. As a result, many migrants feel like outsiders in social situations because they are unaware of underlying cultural forces. Despite being better off economically, studies suggest that an inability to be prosocial has made over 15% of migrants suffer from depression in their new countries. The old mantra, “money can’t buy happiness” yet again reigns supreme. Or does it?
A recent study from the International Journal of Consumer Studies found that the way migrants use their newfound wealth can affect their overall happiness. The study proposes that migrants who focus on “prosocial spending“ experience higher levels of overall happiness and a sense of connection with their new home.
“Prosocial spending” is devoting money to experiences rather than spending it on material goods. This type of spending takes many forms: allocating funds to others in a community, purchasing a vacation or tickets to an event, or even taking time off from work in order to spend time with new friends (which is a non-monetary way to utilize prosocial spending). Because many migrants feel ostracized in new communities, they may resort to isolating and spending on material possessions which can temporarily increase happiness, but the positive feelings are fleeting. Material spending leads to a vicious cycle where the buyer purchases an object, receives a hit of dopamine and continues to purchase goods to achieve the same level of shallow happiness.
Prosocial, or experiential, purchases also help migrants assimilate to their environment and maneuver around cultural differences. Once a migrant gets involved in their community, it is possible to find others who hail from their home country who can help provide companionship or may even speak their native language.
Migrants over the past two years have been heavily affected by COVID restrictions which act as a barrier to socialization for people from all walks of life. During the lockdown era, events were cancelled, businesses, churches and community centers were shuttered, and migrants were left with very few options to integrate successfully. They’ve reported that since COVID they have faced more discrimination and deterioration of mental health. The overwhelming isolation of migrants underscores the necessity for prosocial behavior within the migrant community.
Moreover, prosocial spending is said to be beneficial not just to migrants but people regardless of their immigration status. Easy actions such as taking a day off work to see family, spending money on a friend or buying that concert ticket can have huge benefits for a person’s happiness and overall mental health.