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Materialism, personal well-being and environmental behaviour: cross-national and longitudinal evidence from the UK and Chile

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posted on 2023-06-08, 17:38 authored by Wenceslao Unanue-Manriquez
This thesis investigates how materialism is related to personal well-being, as well as to environmental behaviour. I tested key assumptions in the field, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally, in two samples of adults from two different cultures, the UK – an established mass consumer society – and Chile – a fast-growing economy. Results are presented in the form of three papers. Using a cross-sectional analysis, I showed in Paper 1 that materialism was associated with lower levels of well-being in both countries. Importantly, both need satisfaction and need frustration mediated the link between materialism and well-being. Notably, need frustration played an incremental explanatory role, above and beyond the role of need satisfaction. In Paper 2, I explored the hypothesized link between need satisfaction/frustration and well-being in greater depth. Employing a cross-lagged longitudinal design over 3 years, I found that in both countries, higher total need satisfaction (versus frustration) was a significant prospective predictor of higher well-being. However, when separate needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness were distinguished, only relatedness reached statistical significance in the UK, and none of the three needs individually predicted well-being in Chile. In both countries, need satisfaction prospectively predicted positive well-being, and in the UK, need frustration prospectively predicted negative well-being. Finally, I found a bi-directional link between total need satisfaction and subjective well-being in both countries. These results point towards a better integration of research into hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. In Paper 3, I showed, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally, that a higher relative importance placed on extrinsic (versus intrinsic) life goals was a negative antecedent of environmentally responsible behaviour, even while controlling for effects of environmental worldviews and environmental identification. Taken together, these results show the negative effects of materialistic values and life goals in both people’s well-being and in the future of our the natural environment.


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University of Sussex

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