We have all met materialistic people. These individuals want the best of the best, whether it is the latest phone or a top-of-the-range car. But even when their demands are met, these types of characters may not be happy. And now, new research suggests that materialistic individuals are more likely to be depressed and unsatisfied with life.
According to the research team, who recently published their findings online in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, materialistic people find it more difficult to be grateful for what they have, which causes them to become miserable.
Lead study author Jo-Ann Tsang, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the College of Arts and Sciences at Baylor University in Waco, TX, explains that gratitude is a positive mood that is about other people rather than ourselves.
"Previous research that we, and others, have done finds that people are motivated to help people that help them, and to help others as well," she adds. "We're social creatures, and so focusing on others in a positive way is good for our health."
However, the team says that people who are materialistic tend to be "me-centered." They are more likely to focus on what they do not have and are unable to be grateful for what they do have, whether it is their family, a nice house or a good job.
The treadmill of consumption
To reach their findings, the researchers assessed 246 individuals from a marketing department of a university who were an average age of 21.
All participants were required to completed a 15-minute online survey that measured materialism, gratitude, need satisfaction and life satisfaction.
As expected, results of the study revealed that those who rated low on gratitude and high on need satisfaction were more likely to be materialistic and less satisfied with life.
Co-author James Roberts, of Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business, says the fact that we are able to adapt well to new situations may explain why material possessions do no equal happiness.
"As we amass more and more possessions, we don't get any happier, we simply raise our reference point," he says, adding:
"That new 2,500-square-foot house becomes the baseline for your desires for an even bigger house. It's called the 'Treadmill of Consumption.' We continue to purchase more and more stuff but we don't get any closer to happiness, we simply speed up the treadmill."
Past research has shown similar findings. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies revealed that high levels of gratitude and low levels of materialism in adolescents was associated with high life satisfaction, social integration and low envy and depression.
The researchers conclude that maybe the accent Greek philosopher Epicurus was right when he said: "Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."
In 2011, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that materialism may damage a couple's relationship.