The Negative Consequences of Materialism

Depression anxiety and willingness to socialize affected by consumer mindset

April 11, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

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(dailyRx News) We have all heard that money doesn’t buy happiness, but this old adage may have more truth to it than you think. In fact, recent findings suggest consumerism and materialistic tendencies actually decrease happiness.

The new study found that people with a materialistic frame of mind rate themselves as having higher levels of depression and anxiety.

Additionally, they were more competitive and had less interest in social activities.

"There is great value in your relationships and experiences."

"We found that irrespective of personality, in situations that activate a consumer mindset, people show the same sorts of problematic patterns in wellbeing, including negative affect and social disengagement," says Galen V. Bodenhausen, Ph.D., professor of social psychology at Northwestern University.

The research team conducted several trials involving the materialistic frame of mind. In one trial, participants were shown images of luxury goods or words related to consumerism. Other participants were shown neutral images and words lacking a consumerist connotation.

Those that were in the materialistic frame of mind rated themselves as having higher levels of depression and anxiety. They were also less interested in social activities.

In another trial, participants were presented with a hypothetical water well shortage. The well was to be shared between four people. After the exercise, those in a materialistic frame of mind rated themselves as less trusting of the others in regulating water usage.

Interestingly, the team found that these findings remained true regardless of the personality profile of the individual. The researchers believe that the findings have social and personal implications.

"It's become commonplace to use consumer as a generic term for people," says Bodenhausen. If we use other terms, such as citizen, he says "that subtle difference activates different psychological concerns."

The study was published online in the journal Psychological Science on March 16th, 2012. 

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Review Date: 
April 11, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2012