Materialism and Mental Health

Materialism and Mental Health

Do you find yourself stuck in a loop of feeling like the secret to your happiness lies in something you can buy, a status you can achieve, or making a certain amount of money? While security is important for us to experience a sense of ease in life, we can run into trouble when we get caught up in believing that our world will be better if we can attain a certain status or image, or if we acquire certain products.

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If you feel like this applies to you, you are not alone. According to research, the more television you watch, the more likely you are to have materialistic values. Much of the messaging we receive through advertising tells us that if you are beautiful, wealthy, popular, and own nice things, then you are a successful person.1  A study of American and Arab youth indicated that more time spent on social media is linked to higher rates of materialism,1 and we spend a decent amount of time on social media. For individuals between the ages of 16 and 24, the median amount of time spent on social media was 3 hours, and in 2018, the average daily time spent on social media was 142 minutes a day.2

How does materialism impact mental health?

In the 1990s, researchers Scott Dawson and Marsha Richins developed the first scale that rigorously measured materialism. For a period of two decades, studies found that individuals who scored high in materialism consistently scored low on almost every other major scale used to measure happiness.3 One study suggests that someone who experiences chronic doubt about their worth are more likely to be materialistic, because individuals who doubt themselves are evaluating themselves through the eyes of others.4 The relationship between lower levels of well-being and materialism may be related to the fact that materialistic values are not great at satisfying important psychological needs.1

Gratitude can help…

Gratitude counters materialism because gratitude requires us to experience appreciation for what we have in our lives, rather than focusing on what we don’t have or what’s coming next.4 When we can ground ourselves in our current experience and take note of moments of beauty in the world and everything that is going right, over time with enough practice, this will come more naturally and you will be less inclined to see your life through the lens of lack.

Sarah Tronco, LCSW, provides online counseling in New Jersey and works to develop a strong therapeutic relationship with her clients, which helps to create a secure place where individuals can achieve meaningful change.

Sarah Tronco, LCSW, now also provides online counseling in Pennsylvania, contact her to learn more.


  5. Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash