Consumerism Leads to Depression, Study Finds

B Rosen/CC BY 2.0

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.

Tags: Consumerism