Is 'modern culture' bad for our health and well-being?

Phil Hanlon, Sandra Carlisle

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    Evidence is accumulating that well-being in high-income societies may be static or in decline. One influential theory argues that this is because ‘modern’ societies are influenced by values of materialism, individualism and consumerism. 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. (Global Health Promotion, 2009; 16(4): pp. 27—34)
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)27-34
    Number of pages8
    JournalGlobal Health Promotion
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


    • consumer culture
    • individualism
    • qualitative research
    • well-being


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