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Advertising as a Major Source of Human Dissatisfaction: Cross-National Evidence on One Million Europeans

In: The Economics of Happiness


  • Chloe Michel

    (University of Zurich)

  • Michelle Sovinsky

    (University of Mannheim
    Centre for Economic Policy Research)

  • Eugenio Proto

    (Centre for Economic Policy Research
    University of Bristol
    IZA Institute for the Study of Labor)

  • Andrew J. Oswald

    (University of Warwick
    IZA Institute for the Study of Labor)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Chloe Michel & Michelle Sovinsky & Eugenio Proto & Andrew J. Oswald, 2019. "Advertising as a Major Source of Human Dissatisfaction: Cross-National Evidence on One Million Europeans," Springer Books, in: Mariano Rojas (ed.), The Economics of Happiness, chapter 0, pages 217-239, Springer.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:sprchp:978-3-030-15835-4_10
    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-15835-4_10

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    Cited by:

    1. Tomas Hanell, 2022. "Unmet Aspirations and Urban Malaise," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 164(1), pages 83-103, November.
    2. David A. Griffith & Hannah S. Lee & Goksel Yalcinkaya, 2023. "Understanding the relationship between advertising spending and happiness at the country level," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 54(1), pages 128-150, February.
    3. Michael A. Wiles & Saeed Janani & Darima Fotheringham & Chadwick J. Miller, 2024. "A Longitudinal Examination of the Relationship Between National-Level Per Capita Advertising Expenditure and National-Level Life Satisfaction Across 76 Countries," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(3), pages 542-563, May.
    4. Mehta, Ritu & Bharadwaj, Apoorva, 2021. "Food advertising targeting children in India: Analysis and implications," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 59(C).
    5. Messner, Wolfgang, 2024. "Exploring multilevel data with deep learning and XAI: The effect of personal-care advertising spending on subjective happiness," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(1).

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