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Materialism and loneliness: Is there really a vicious cycle?

Date:
July 26, 2013
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
Despite being much-maligned, materialism is not always bad for consumers. Loneliness may cause materialism, but the opposite is not necessarily true, according to a new study.

Despite being much-maligned, materialism is not always bad for consumers.

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Loneliness may cause materialism, but the opposite is not necessarily true, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"It is widely believed that there is a vicious cycle in which loneliness leads to materialism and materialism in turn contributes to loneliness. But, contrary to popular beliefs about the universal perils of materialism, the pursuit of material possessions as part of a lifestyle of 'happy hedonism' may not actually be detrimental to consumer well-being when kept within certain limits," writes author Rik Pieters (Tilburg University).

The author studied more than 2,500 consumers over a period of six years and found that loneliness was likely to lead to materialism. However, while materialism sometimes caused loneliness, it could also decrease loneliness. Loneliness increased over time for consumers who valued material possessions as a measure of success or a type of "happiness medicine," but decreased for those who sought possessions just for the sheer joy and fun of consumption.

The study also found that singles were lonelier than other consumers. Singles pursued material possessions less for the pleasure of acquiring and owning them and more as a type of "material medicine." In addition, men were more likely to view possessions as a measure of success in life and as a material medicine, whereas women viewed possessions more as a source of "material mirth."

Materialism does not necessarily lead to a vicious cycle in which shopping makes consumers lonelier. While materialism can be bad for consumers who seek meaning or status through their possessions, it can actually benefit consumers who acquire possessions solely for pleasure and comfort. In other words, materialism may not entirely deserve its bad reputation.

"While materialism can increase loneliness, it may actually reduce loneliness for some consumers. Increasing opportunities for social interaction and improving social skills may be more effective at reducing loneliness than the usual appeals to turn off the television or stop shopping," the author concludes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rik Pieters. Bidirectional Dynamics of Materialism and Loneliness: Not Just a Vicious Cycle. Journal of Consumer Research, 2013; 000 DOI: 10.1086/671564

Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "Materialism and loneliness: Is there really a vicious cycle?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130726121614.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2013, July 26). Materialism and loneliness: Is there really a vicious cycle?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130726121614.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "Materialism and loneliness: Is there really a vicious cycle?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130726121614.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

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