Consumerism Leads to Depression, Study Finds


Written by Stephen Messenger

Consumerism is a key driver in any capitalistic society and the centerpiece to our world economy — but despite the everyday role it plays in our lives, research suggests that this longing for material goods might actually be bumming us out.

According to new a study from Northwestern University, people who place hight value on wealth, status, and material possessions may actually be the most depressed and anti-social among us. In other words, those most prone to trying to buy happiness in the form of stuff are probably more likely to experience an emotion quite the opposite.

But it isn’t just the greedy consumer sect that’s susceptible to materialism blues, says lead researcher Galen V. Bodenhausen; this applies to pretty much anyone bombarded with messages that trigger the urge to acquire stuff:

“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.”

In one experiment, outlined in the journal Psychological Science, subject groups were exposed to either neutral images (free of goods), or images containing consumer products that one might see advertised every day. Afterwards, testing determined that “those who looked at the pictures of cars, electronics, and jewelry rated themselves higher in depression and anxiety, less interested in social activities like parties, and more in solitary pursuits than the others.”

A second experiment, which ranked subjects on their levels of “consumerism”, found that those most drawn towards words like ‘wealth’ and ‘power’ were more likely to be distrustful, and less cooperative with others — leading researchers to conclude that the consumer status “did not unite; it divided.”

Researchers say that the depression and social isolation begotten from materialistic influences can be quelled simply by tuning them out at the source — which in many cases, might mean watching less television.

While it may seem unfortunate to some that happiness cannot be purchased, the good news is that it’s actually free for the taking.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


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Photo from Bhakti-Amsterdam via flickr

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Lily M.
Lily M.3 years ago


Debbie L.
Debbie Lim3 years ago

Interesting, thanks.

Yulan Lawson
Yulan Lawson3 years ago

Yep just ask anyone from North Korea.

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey3 years ago

When will people learn, Happines comes from within. Stores are for buying what you need.

Michelle Anderson

Thank you

Karen Howard
Karen H.3 years ago

Solangel P, yes, sex can lead to depression, and by that I mean excessive sex.
When people feel incomplete, they seek gratification from external sources, whether that’s shopping and acquiring massive amounts of whatever (jewelry, cars, etc.), drinking to excess, or having sex with multiple partners. They don’t feel “complete” and so they try to fill the void with anything that will make them feel better or numb the pain.

Vicki P.
Victoria P.3 years ago

Thank-you for the article~♥

Winn Adams
Winn Adams3 years ago


Sheri Schongold
Sheri Schongold3 years ago

Thanx. It can explain a lot and yet not enough.

annie s.
annie statton3 years ago

I know it can attempt to fill a hole-----never works.