This thesis explores how consumption impacts on people’s wellbeing in seven Peruvian communities. It draws on social science literature on consumption and incorporates the key factors highlighted by the research on wellbeing determinants. Generally, it is accepted that consumption increases wellbeing by lifting people out of poverty and that it has a negative impact if it fails to place them at a higher social position. Other aspects defining consumption such as the symbolic meaning of goods, its pleasurable dimension, the role of goods and services as basic needs satisfiers, etc. have not been systematically approached from the perspective of their effect on wellbeing. The thesis takes on this challenge by incorporating the most salient features of consumption studied by social scientists through the concepts of motives and satisfiers. It draws on psychologists’ claim that motives are important in understanding the linkages between wellbeing and people’s behaviour. It also integrates the work of human needs theorists stressing the importance of analysing the effectiveness of goods and services as basic needs satisfiers. The research follows a multi-methods approach that takes into account the local specificities of consumption, whilst aiming for a global understanding of the key factors mediating its relationship with human wellbeing; accounting for its objective and subjective dimensions. It uses regression analysis to study how consumption affects happiness through total expenditure and motives, and qualitative methods to explore the efficiency of satisfiers in meeting basic needs. The research finds, as expected, that in the Peruvian communities consumption enhances happiness when it improves basic needs levels and places people at a higher social position. People consuming because of hedonic reasons are also happier, but those consuming for social acceptance and higher status are not. Moreover, being motivated by basic needs is negatively associated with happiness. One of the reasons might be the type of satisfiers used. The exploratory study of needs satisfiers in a Peruvian slum points at their potential inefficiency, which might be contributing to people’s frustration through consumption.
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