If the desire for ever-more material goods is not itself a mental disorder, it is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety and anti-social behavior. According to a series of experiments recently carried out at Northwestern University, when college students are exposed to pictures of luxury goods or words “mobilizing consumerist values”, they rate themselves higher on scales of anxiety and depression. In another experiment, which gave students identical surveys—though one was titled ‘consumer response survey’ and the other ‘citizen survey’—those with the consumer survey responded in ways reflecting materialist values.
What’s the Big Idea?
In a third experiment, students were told they cooperatively owned a water well with three other students. When experimenters referred to the students as consumers, rather than individuals, “the ‘consumers’ rated themselves as less trusting of others to conserve water, less personally responsible and less in partnership with the others in dealing with the crisis.” Psychologist and author of the study, Galen V. Bodenhausen said, ‘We can take personal initiative to reduce the depressive, isolating effects of a materialist mindset by avoiding its stimulants—most obviously, advertising.’