The Silver Lining of Materialism: The Impact of Luxury Consumption on Subjective Well-Being

Publication Date: Saturday 1 September 2012
Author(s): Hudders L., & Pandelaere, M.
Appeared in: Journal of Happiness Studies, vol.: 3, issue: 2, 40-49


Materialism is a way of life characterized by the pursuit of wealth and possessions. Several studies have documented that a materialistic lifestyle is associated with diminished subjective well-being. In spite of this, many people continue to pursue materialistic goals rather than pursue goals that are more beneficial for their well-being. The current paper investigates one mechanism that may contribute to the continued pursuit of materialism. In particular, we propose that luxury consumption may reinforce a materialistic lifestyle. To test this possibility, we investigate the relations between luxury consumption, materialism and cognitive and affective subjective well-being aspects simultaneously, in a structural model. The results of a large scale survey in Dutch-speaking Belgium demonstrate that materialistic consumers are more inclined to consume luxury goods than less materialistic consumers. In addition, luxury consumption leads to enhanced positive mood, diminished negative mood and increased satisfaction with life. Furthermore, although the impact on negative and positive mood is not moderated by materialism, the impact of luxury consumption on satisfaction with life is more pronounced for materialistic consumers than for less materialistic consumers. Together, these results indicate that materialistic consumers not only engage more in luxury consumption than less materialistic consumers, but also benefit more from it (at least in the short run). As a result, luxury consumption may be more rewarding for the former than for the latter and consequently, "lock in" materialists in their lifestyle, irrespective of the long-term adverse consequences for self and society.

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