Unhappiness in young people has ballooned over the last 30 years [1].

Focusing on buying stuff and getting rich doesn’t help make us feel better. It's actually more likely to make us feel worse [2].

The more value placed on things that convey status (materialism), the less likely people experience life satisfaction, marital satisfaction, happiness, vitality, social cooperation and environmentally friendly behaviour, and the more people are likely to manifest depression, anxiety, racism and antisocial behaviour [3].

Young people’s rates of depression, anxiety and unhappiness have soared since the late 1980s, in line with the growing prevalence - and ‘success’ - of advertising and usage of electronic media [4].

How to fix it: Protect our mental health and wellbeing

Doing away with the pressure to pursue outdated norms of success focused on accumulating possessions and wealth. Living mindfully, through experiences instead of things, and practicing gratitude can shift a person’s focus from a thing-centred to a person-and-nature-centred life. These are all ways to strengthen the values associated with sociability, community, and environmental protection and weaken those associated to materialism.

Being aware and vocal of how, when and why children are exposed to advertising and helping others to be aware of it, too can go a long way in counteracting many of the negative and harmful stereotypes of what people should look like and be, own and eat.

[1] Royal Society of Public Health, 2017; Twenge, 2018

[2] Dittmar et al., 2014

[3] Twenge and Kasser, 2003

[4] Twenge, 2017

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