What’s the relationship between wanting what you have, having what you want and general happiness?

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Americans have a lot of stuff, but are not necessarily happier for it. One possibility is that even if we want what we have, we want more. Wanting more may increase have-want discrepancies and reduce well-being. In this paper, we introduce the construct wanting more, and show that it negatively predicts well-being. We then identify materialism as a mediator of this relationship. Wanting more negatively effects well-being at least in part because those who want more are more likely to be materialistic. Finally, we show that wanting more than one has and wanting what one has are distinct constructs, and that wanting what one has moderates the relationship between wanting more and well-being. Those who want more are less happy only if they also do not want what they have. Wanting what one has may reduce attention to have-want discrepancies that result from wanting more. 

Source: “Wanting more than you have and it’s Consequences for Well-being” from Journal of Happiness Studies (12 November 2010), pp. 1-9. 

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