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Theses Doctoral

He who dies with the most toys... A longitudinal look at materialism and physical health

Stehling-Ariza, Tasha

Despite decades of tremendous economic growth, health and longevity in the US has largely stalled in comparison with other high income countries. Traditional risk factors, such as access to healthcare, do not entirely explain this phenomenon leading some to question whether aspects of the US culture should be investigated. Materialism, an often cited characteristic of US culture, has been increasing since the 1960s and a growing body of research suggests materialism may harm psychological well-being and mental health. This dissertation investigated the association between materialism and physical health in order to determine whether materialism should be considered further as a potential explanation for the stalling health in the US. This study was conducted in three parts: a systematic review of the existing literature, an analysis of the association between materialism and self-reported health and chronic medical conditions, and a survival analysis to assess whether materialism affects longevity. The systematic review of the materialism literature identified gaps pertaining to the effect of materialism on physical health in particular. Overall, the analytic papers found little support for a meaningful effect of materialism on self-reported health, chronic medical conditions, or mortality. In addition, there was no support for meaningful mediation by psychological needs or effect modification by household income or education. However, there was some suggestion that materialism may affect self-reported health among young adults born in the 1970s and 1980s. Further research is needed to rule out a chance association and to monitor these young adults for health effects in later life.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Schwartz, Sharon B.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014