Few studies have examined how changes in materialism relate to changes in well-being; fewer have experimentally manipulated materialism to change well-being. Studies 1, 2, and 3 examined how changes in materialistic aspirations related to changes in well-being, using varying time frames (12 years, 2 years, and 6 months), samples (US young adults and Icelandic adults), and measures of materialism and well-being. Across all three studies, results supported the hypothesis that people's well-being improves as they place relatively less importance on materialistic goals and values, whereas orienting toward materialistic goals relatively more is associated with decreases in well-being over time. Study 2 additionally demonstrated that this association was mediated by changes in psychological need satisfaction. A fourth, experimental study showed that highly materialistic US adolescents who received an intervention that decreased materialism also experienced increases in self-esteem over the next several months, relative to a control group. Thus, well-being changes as people change their relative focus on materialistic goals.
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Acknowledgments The 18-year-old data collection in Study 1 was supported by the W. T. Grant Foundation (Grant 88113087); the 30-year-old data collection was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (Grant 1 P50 MH-59396). Study 2 was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH-53385). Study 4 was supported by a grant from the Marjorie Weil and Marvin Edward Mitchell Foundation. The authors thank Clara Baldwin, Melvin Zax, and Jill Gray for their assistance with Study 1 and Cicely Robinson for her assistance with Study 4.