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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Money can't buy you love, The Beatles sang, and a new Australian study confirms that it can't buy happiness either.
Ninety-four percent of people in a recent online survey of almost 1,500 Australians didn't rate wealth or money as top on their list of things that make them smile the most.
Instead, children and babies were found most likely to bring a smile to their faces, with 33 percent of the vote, followed by family and friends at 28 percent, and then pets and animals with 22 percent.
Based on the idea that a smile is the universal symbol for happiness, the study found that people gain more happiness from their experiences than their purchases.
"We know that money doesn't make people happy -- it doesn't make them unhappy, but the benefits of buying something or getting cash out can only be short lived, it doesn't last that long," said Timothy Sharp from the Sydney-based Happiness Institute.
The study, conducted by marketing research body AC Nielsen over three days, asked respondents to choose the factor that made them smile most from a list of five different categories, including money and wealth, and beautiful scenery or nature.
"The findings support my theory that happy people have more and better quality relationships than those who don't smile, because it is an important non-verbal sign we give to others as a way of sharing and eliciting positive emotions," Sharp said.
But the simple act of smiling could make you feel happier too, because it increases the level of serotonin, a hormone that plays an important role in regulating moods in the brain, Sharp told Reuters on Tuesday.
"One of the myths about happiness is that its this spontaneous thing that falls on your lap if you're lucky," he said. "If people engage in happy behavior, you increase your chances of being happy."