In this study, we investigate the relationship between consumption and subjective well-being (SWB). There is clear evidence in the literature that the income–SWB relationship depends on the SWB measure, but the reasons are not fully clear yet; however, the main reason may be related to consumption because most income is used for that. This study is the first to examine directly whether the consumption–SWB relationship differs between affective, cognitive, and eudaimonic SWB measures. We adopt the following four SWB indices: life satisfaction, the Cantril ladder, affect balance, and eudaimonia. In addition, on the consumption side, we consider both material and relational consumption. Nonparametric analysis of our uniquely collected survey results in Japan suggests that total consumption contributes to cognitive measures of SWB and eudaimonia, while there is a certain threshold for affective measures. However, once material versus relational consumption is considered in total consumption, we find that relational consumption contributes to any SWB measure without clear upper bounds, while material consumption contributes to all SWB measures only to certain thresholds. Our results also show that the marginal effects of total consumption, material consumption, and relational consumption on cognitive measures of SWB and eudaimonia are greater than on affective measures. In addition, our results show that the marginal effects of relational consumption tend to be greater than those of material consumption for all SWB indices. Based on the findings, we expect relational consumption to be key for improving well-being.
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