Amongst examined populations, research has found materialistic values to be empirically associated with lower levels of life satisfaction. While the causes of materialistic values are plentiful, extant research suggests that a primary driver is the rapid urbanization and commercialization of a society, with youth being more susceptible. The dramatic transformation of the UAE over the past four decades, coupled with the relatively young population, increases the likelihood that materialistic values have been cultivated among the population. This study sheds light on the interesting but under researched case of materialism in the UAE. A self-report survey measured the materialism and life satisfaction levels of 210 UAE residents (80 nationals and 130 non-nationals). Materialistic values were found to be negatively correlated with life satisfaction amongst our sample. In addition, UAE nationals reported significantly higher levels of materialism than non-national residents. To uncover the causes and consequences of high levels of materialism amongst UAE nationals, four focus groups and 25 in-depth interviews were conducted. Five major consequences of materialistic values were revealed: 1) the development of an increasingly competitive and narcissistic society, 2) the development of a more judgmental and less accepting society, 3) the use of consumption as a tool to boost confidence and self-esteem, 4) an increase in family conflicts and the delaying of marriage, and 5) a lack of savings and an increase in debt. The primary causes of materialistic values were: 1) the rapid development and commercialization of the UAE, 2) the consequences of materialism propagating the values in a self-perpetuating cycle, 3) narcissism and competition on social media, 4) Emirati values of generosity, hospitality, perfection and pride, and 5) parenting and youths lack of financial responsibilities. To advance life satisfaction levels within the UAE population, we propose that policy makers implement awareness campaigns, educational programs, and legislation to reduce the current levels of materialism.

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Zayed University

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