There is increasing evidence indicating that well-being in high-income societies may be in decline. One influential theory for this trend blames the driving values of materialism, individualism and consumerism in ‘modern’ societies, which in turn exert a damaging influence on well-being. These trends lead to an increase of social and health inequalities. This article considers the contemporary sociocultural shifts that have contributed to the health disparities. The study concludes that there is however potential for improvement and scope for positive responses.
Evidence is accumulating that well-being in high-income societies may be static or in decline. One influential theory argues that this is Does this intellectual critique resonate with ordinary people? This article reports on interviews with purposefully selected groups in Scotland, where the relevance of the cultural critique was explored. Participants in the study believed that cultural values such as individualized consumerism do exert a damaging influence on well-being. They suggested that such values are given particular power in the context of widespread social change and increasing inequalities. Nevertheless, they also believed that individuals and communities possess the capacity to resist such trends. This article concludes that efforts to achieve material improvement for disadvantaged people may not suffice in redressing deep-seated inequalities, if the contribution of some subtle but pernicious effects of contemporary culture remains neglected. However, the research does suggest that positive responses are also possible.
Hanlon, P., & Carlisle, S. (2009). Is ‘modern culture’ bad for our health and well-being? Global Health Promotion, 16 (4), 27-34 DOI: 10.1177/1757975909348113