Would living in a larger house make you more content? The question was recently tackled by Dr Chris Foye of the University of Glasgow in an article for the BBC.
Dr Foye explored the common notion that UK homes are of the poky and over-priced variety. However, the average home in England and Wales has actually increased from 88 to 90 square metres between 2004 and 2016, according to ONS data referenced by Foye.
The real issue, says Foye, is that there is an unequal distribution of property sizes - with many people renting small properties, and many owner-occupiers enjoying plenty of space. For many renters, it seems, poky living is the norm - especially for younger ones who may be sharing a property with several other people.
Foye points out that how you feel about your living space depends largely on what you're used to. What may be considered small by British standards, might be regarded as more than sufficient to a resident of Tokyo, Hong Kong or Singapore, for example.
Dr Foye's one research revealed that even when someone buys a bigger property, over time their level of satisfaction reduces.
And where a person does experience increased satisfaction with a bigger property, there is no significant uplift beyond four rooms per person. This is often reflected in earnings/happiness surveys. One US study revealed that money does in fact make people, happier - but only up to a certain point (around $75,000, or £57,000).
Foye also points out that when we see others purchase larger houses, we tend to feel worse about where we live. The importance of having a larger abode than others in order to feel good was referenced in this article - to the point that people would give up living space if it meant having more space than others.
However, Foye is quick to point out that not everyone is concerned with ‘outdoing the Joneses’. Some people simply wish to have a certain amount of living space in order to feel 'normal' - to feel they are pursuing established cultural goals.
Interestingly, UK and US households feel the same about their living space as they did decades ago, despite the fact people have bigger homes. Average space per person has grown by 40% in the US alone.
Working harder for more living space?
Foye points out that people are working longer hours and taking out larger mortgages, which, while securing more living space, adds to overall stress levels.
Dr Foye closes by stating his support for the eradication of cramped properties, and the introduction of more affordable housing. However, he questions whether pursuing a much bigger home would actually make many of us happier.