American Materialism – where is its source?

Is your place of living making you a materialist?

American people tend to live in a strong belief that material possessions can bring them loads of happiness. It really is great that you have lots of money and you can buy whatever you want and there is nothing wrong in being rich or driving a luxurious car. But…Materialist attitude is proved to be happiness killer actually. Many studies show that non-materialists are socially and personally more fulfilled than materialists who live in the world of compulsive shopping and constant search for more “happiness”, which ends up in anxiety or depression.

However, if we already know the reality we live in, we stumble upon a question about the source of such epidemic American materialism. Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. and his colleagues decided to find out what causes materialism and they examined “geography of materialism”. As a result, they discovered that there is a link between our place of living, socioeconomic status and materialism.

It turns out that our neighborhood affects our attitudes and beliefs. Local indicators of wealth influence and shape our personal materialistic attitude, our own value of material possessions, saving habits and tendencies to buy on impulse. Local “wealthy-man” pictures affect our self-evaluation and lead us to social comparisons with those wealthier than us, which in turn, makes us more prone to bad habits and materialistic attitude.

Living in a strong local economy influences our standards and makes us more willing to compare with each other on the basis of our wealth. If one lives among people buying more, he or she feels an inner need to do the same so as not to feel worse and poorer. Therefore, we decide to buy many unnecessary things which do not make us better or happier at all. Making comparisons make us unhappy, since instead of feeling grateful for what we already have we still feel desire to gain more and more which leads to the typical materialism.

What should be done? The first crucial thing to do is to make people aware of the connection. They should realize how much they are shaped by their surroundings. We all need to know how much we really need just for us, and how much we need for the others, to show that we are not worse and we live up to the local standards of the wealthy.

Relationship between money and happiness is rarely properly understood. Materialism comes from this wrong understanding and our chase for more and more which is supposed to make us feel good while comparing to our neighbors. If we forget about our values and do not analyze our personality and spending habits we can end up cornered. We need to work on being grateful for our status and stop taking part in our neighbourhood’s “race for the wealth”.