Welfare Beyond Consumption: The Benefits of Having Less
Authors: Alexandra Hüttel, Ingo Balderjahn, Stefan Hoffmann (Ecological Economics, 2020, 176, Article: 106719)
In developed regions worldwide, so-called anti-consumers are increasingly resisting high-level consumption lifestyles or shifting to alternative forms of consumption. A general reduction in consumption levels is considered necessary to attain global sustainability goals. However, knowledge regarding the factors driving people to deliberately consume less and how anti-consumption affects individuals’ well-being is limited. Against this background, this study considers the influence of human values and the well-being effects of two types of anti-consumption: voluntary simplicity and collaborative consumption. Based on representative data from the US (N = 1075) and Germany (N = 1070), the findings show that the two anti-consumption types do not reduce the well-being of individuals’ but in some cases, even improve it, which suggests that lowering consumption can not only help protect environmental resources but also serve the greater good of society. In particular, this relationship holds among collaborative consumers with a strong need for cognition, i.e., a cognitive thinking style that involves a high level of decision control. According to the study results, opposite value orientations are the drivers of voluntary simplicity and collaborative consumption (i.e., a focus on self-transcendence versus self-enhancement). These findings are comparable in both countries; however, the strength of the effects differs.
Keywords: Anti-consumption, Subjective well-being, Voluntary simplicity, Collaborative consumption, Human values, Need for cognition