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Materialism & Loneliness: A Vicious Cycle?

Materialism & Loneliness: A Vicious Cycle?  Loneliness may cause materialism, but the opposite is not necessarily true, according to a new study.

“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,” said Rik Pieters, Ph.D., of Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

The researcher, who studied more than 2,500 consumers over a six-year period, found that loneliness was likely to lead to materialism. However, while materialism sometimes caused loneliness, it could also decrease loneliness, he reported.

He also discovered that 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 are lonelier than other consumers. They pursue material possessions less for the pleasure of acquiring and owning them and more as a type of “material medicine,” he said.

In addition, men were more likely to view possessions as a measure of success in life and as a material medicine, while women viewed possessions more as a source of “material mirth,” he noted.

“While materialism can increase loneliness, it may actually reduce loneliness for some consumers,” Pieters concluded in the study, which was published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“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.”

Source: University of Chicago Press Journals


Depressed teenager using his computer photo by shutterstock.

Materialism & Loneliness: A Vicious Cycle?

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2018). Materialism & Loneliness: A Vicious Cycle?. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 22, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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