Sustainable consumption to be happy and healthy?

Growing consumption does not increase happiness or health!

In industrialized countries happiness or health does not increase when consumption grows (Fanning et al.,2019). From a sustainability perspective this can be an important finding as global human consumption today is already outstripping what the planet can reproduce. Due to expected world population growth and developing countries becoming more industrialized, global consumption will grow even when there is no growing consumption in the industrialized countries. I think it is in general good news that happiness and health are not influenced by higher consumption. We do not have to buy or consume more to make us happier or healthier and it will not burden the environment further.

Declining consumption results in lower happiness but no decline on health

The fact that Fanning et al. (2019) conclude that declining consumption leads to lower happiness is worrisome. As we already consume more than the planet can reproduce, it would be helpful if the developed countries would consume less. The good news is that consuming less does not influence our health. So we don’t have to be unhappy about that. Based on the definition of happiness as being “the result from the possession or attainment of what one considers good”, it is possible that in the industrialized world we have an outdated idea of what is good. Living in a global world means, having the benefits of global trade, tourism and intellectual enrichment. That should make us happy. However there is also the responsibilty for our environment. So consuming less and staying healthy is an interesting challenge.

Making sustainable choices

So if the key message is, that we should consume less. There are different ways to consume less and still being happy and healthy. It is more a personal matter or style what works for you. Most consumers are well aware of the importance of their consumption choices and care about environmental issues. For some it can be a hard restriction of buying, but it can also be achieved by making more use of the sharing economy or doing things differently that will reduce your ecological footprint.

I would like to repeat my closing remark in my former blog wishing you a happy and healthy new year. It is important that we realise what we really want and choose the most sustainable solution.

Norbert Bol


Fanning, A. L., & O’Neill, D. W. (2019). The Wellbeing–Consumption paradox: Happiness, health, income, and carbon emissions in growing versus non-growing economies. Journal of Cleaner Production, 212, 810-821.

Photo by Roderick Eime, shopping – Andres Rodriguez / Dreamstime

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