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Television commercials featuring perfect people could be making us miserable

It’s the question that has baffled economists for generations. Why doesn’t economic growth make us happier?

This used to be known as “Easterlin’s Paradox” after economist Richard Easterlin. He pointed out way back in the 1970s that the industrialized world’s miraculous leaps in per capita GDP were not being matched by much, if any, gains in average life satisfaction.

And the debate has raged ever since.

When people find jobs when economic growth picks up, they typically get happier. But when they switch on the TV and watch commercials? Not so much.

Some sociologists say we’re unhappy because of something called The Hedonic Treadmill, which means we quickly get bored with every improvement, so that last year’s amazing new product is this year’s old junk.

Others say we’re unhappy because we’re trying to keep up with others — whether it’s the Joneses or the Kardashians.

Some say it’s all hooey and we really are getting happier — though you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who seriously argues that the U.S., which is 30% richer per capita than it was in the late 1990s, is now 30% happier, or even 3%.

But now economists have found another factor that may be to blame.


It’s making us miserable, according to a new paper published by the Center for Economic Policy Research. The richer we get as a society, the more advertising we see. And the more advertising we see, the unhappier we get, it concludes.

Researchers in

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