How to Feel Happy

Are Americans indulging in a spending spree to mask the emptiness of their lives? Some social critics make a good living arguing that the answer is “yes.” Pro-capitalist pundits respond that the masses are simply availing themselves of the good life heretofore limited to the aristos. In this era of the Third Way, let us consider a synthesis of these views: Americans have indeed gone on a shopping binge to paper over their angst—and it works! The theory looks more plausible in light of a survey conducted for Adweek by Alden & Associates Marketing Research of Hermosa Beach, Calif. Asked if buying something makes them “feel happier,” 67.5 percent of those polled said it does. Youthful idealism doesn’t preclude this outlook: 78.9 percent of the poll’s 18-24-year-olds answered “yes,” versus 70.8 percent of 25-34s, 68 percent of 35-49s, 62.5 percent of 50-64s and 60.7 percent of those 65 and up. There wasn’t a gender gap, but there was a marital gap: 71.9 percent of singles said buying something makes them feel happier, versus 63.5 percent of marrieds. Lise Metzger/Tony StoneGDT/Tony Stone