Relationship Between Materialism and Subjective Well-Being Among Different Income Groups

Šarūnas Žukauskas, Rita Žukauskienė


Research on materialism and well-being has drawn attention in recent decades. In consumer societies, material goods have become a symbol of happiness and success (e.g. Garðarsdóttir and Dittmar, 2012); although many research results show exactly the opposite. One of the most frequent drawbacks of high materialistic orientation is reported to be lower satisfaction in life and lower satisfaction in many life domains (e.g. Chancellor and Lyubomirsky, 2011).
Most researches show significantly lower subjective well-being in materialistic subjects, regardless of their income (Kasser and Ryan, 1996; Kasser and Ahuvia, 2002) and explain this correlation by intrinsic and extrinsic pursuit of goals, as suggested by Kasser and Ryan (1993, 1996). However, other researchers report interaction between income and pursuit for material well-being, e.g., that higher income might lower negative impact of materialism on subjective well-being (e.g. Nickerson et al, 2003).
In this research we used Richins and Dawson (1992) Material Values Scale (MVS), Satisfaction with life scale (Diener et al., 1985), Scale of Positive and Negative Experilatesence (SPANE, Diener et al., 2009) to measure relationship between materialism and subjective well-being among different income groups. Our sample consisted of 106 adults living and working in Lithuania.
We found that subjective well-being was correlated with income (Spearman’s rho 0.308, p<0.01). Income also showed significant correlations with positive affect (Spearman’s rho 0.308, p<0.01), but had no significant correlations with negative affect. Materialism was correlated with negative affect (Spearman’s rho 0.228, p<0.05). Centrality subscale of MVS also correlated with negative affect (Spearman’s rho 0.316, p<0.01), and happiness subscale was negatively correlated with subjective well-being (Spearman’s rho 0.316, p<0.01).
Further analysis showed that materialism was an increasingly negative affect, regardless of income level. Subjective well-being was negatively related to the income level, regardless of the level of materialism. Our research results support findings of Kasser and Ahuvia (2002), Kasser and Ryan (1993), showing that material wealth does not affect the relationship between materialism and well-being.
Possible limitation of this study is higher than average income of the sample. Almost 33 per cent of the sample reported monthly income that was double than the average salary in Lithuania and only about 10 per cent reported income that was lower than average.


materialism; subjective well-being; income

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"Social Work" ISSN online 2029-2775 / ISSN print 1648-4789