Consumption, technology and wellbeing
This policy brief highlights the insights subjective well-being metrics bring to the understanding of the relationship between consumption and happiness. We explore this topic in the advent of expected significant price increases under the double impact of higher climate volatility and the costly transition to cleaner production and transportation technologies, as it is the case with maritime transport.
People appear to be sensitive to price increases, on top of the real purchasing power of price and income changes regarding their happiness. Moreover, the type of consumption matters, with a lower marginal effect of material consumption on wellbeing compared to experiential consumption. Health, social relationships and local environment are considered as main drivers of their wellbeing and de-emphasise consumption.
A key outcome is that the gains of additional consumption decrease with the level of consumption, making consumption reductions less painful at the upper end of the revenue scale. Rich societies should be actively working on further decoupling material consumption and well-being by consciously exposing the elusive nature of the well-being boost we get from conspicuous consumption (goods others can readily observe: car, clothing, house, watches) and provide incentives for more socially and environmentally responsible modes of consumption.