The authors hypothesized that television viewership influences materialism and dissatisfaction with standard of living, which in turn contributes to feelings of dissatisfaction with life. They collected data from five countries to examine the issue in a variety of cultural and media environments. The countries and types of samples were: United States (consumer panel and college students), Canada (urban households), Australia (urban households), Turkey (urban households), and China (urban households). The results were generally consistent with the hypotheses. However, most of the support came from the U.S. samples. Two possible explanations may account for the findings. One is that the effect of television viewership on life satisfaction is a unique phenomenon that is applicable only to the United States. Given the disparity of viewership levels between the U.S. and other countries, that explanation has some face validity. The other is that the effects were less evident in non-U.S. samples because of methodological limitations of the cross-cultural research. Overall, the results show that television viewership, at least in the U.S., may play a significant role in making people unhappy with their lives. Much of television advertising reinforces material consumption and possession with images of the “good life.” Thus, television advertising contributes to terminal materialism—materialism for the sake of materialism. Socially responsible advertising professionals should make a concerted effort to create messages that reflect instrumental materialism—materialism for the sake of meeting essential and basic needs.
Sirgy, M. J., Lee, D. J., Kosenko, R., Lee Meadow, H., Rahtz, D., Cicic, M., … &Wright, N. (1998). Does television viewership play a role in the perception of quality of life?. Journal of Advertising, 27(1), 125-142.