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


  • Michel, Chloe

    (University of Zurich, Switzerland.)

  • Sovinsky, Michelle

    (University of Mannheim, Germany, Centre for Economic Policy Research, London)

  • Proto, Eugenio

    (University of Bristol, IZA Institute for the Study of Labor, Bonn, Germany)

  • Oswald, Andrew J.

    (University of Warwick, and CAGE research centre, IZA Institute for the Study of Labor, Bonn, Germany)


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

  • Michel, Chloe & Sovinsky, Michelle & Proto, Eugenio & Oswald, Andrew J., 2019. "Advertising as a Major Source of Human Dissatisfaction: Cross-National Evidence on One Million Europeans," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 397, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cge:wacage:397

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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).
    3. Mehta, Ritu & Bharadwaj, Apoorva, 2021. "Food advertising targeting children in India: Analysis and implications," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 59(C).
    4. 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.

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    adverts; status; life satisfaction; Easterlin Paradox; positive affect JEL Classification:;
    All these keywords.

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