Advertising as a Major Source of Human Dissatisfaction: Cross-National Evidence on One Million Europeans
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Advertising is ubiquitous in modern life. Yet might it be harmful to the happiness of nations? This paper blends longitudinal data on advertising with large-scale surveys on citizens’ well-being. The analysis uses information on approximately 1 million randomly sampled European citizens across 27 nations over 3 decades. We show that increases in national advertising expenditure are followed by significant declines in levels of life satisfaction. This finding is robust to adjustments for a range of potential confounders -- including the personal and economic characteristics of individuals, country fixed-effects, year dummies, and business-cycle influences. Further research remains desirable. Nevertheless, our empirical results are some of the first to be consistent with the hypothesis that, perhaps by fostering unending desires, high levels of advertising may depress societal well-being.
Sovinsky acknowledges support from European Research Council Grant #725081 FORENSICS and from the Collaborative Research Center Transregion 224 grant. Oswald acknowledges support from the CAGE center at the University of Warwick. Information on how to obtain the Eurobarometer data is available on the European Commission website http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/index_en.htm.
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