ISSN 1538-1080

Sufficiency and Simple Living: The Path to Personal and Global Well-Being

Sufficiency and Simple Living: The Path to Personal and Global Well-Being

For every beneficial thing there is a point beyond which more is not necessarily better; where what is good for you in moderation gradually becomes harmful. This is not only true for the individual but also true of communities, nations and the planet. Whether we call it moderation, frugality or simple living, there is evidence to suggest restraint is good for health and wellbeing at every scale. The evidence for this article comes from data from a variety of sources that suggest that the relationship between growth in the consumption of resources and improvements in quality of life is subject to a threshold effect. Growth improves quality of life up to a point, until a threshold is reached where improvements in wellbeing begins to taper off (the point of diminishing marginal returns) and then may even decline. This relationship shows up in such areas as the relationship between Gross Domestic Product and national wellbeing, between income and satisfaction, energy consumption and welfare, health expenditures and health outcomes, and between personal consumption and personal health. Sufficiency and satiety may be the most important paths to health. Despite this, in many measures of consumption there is an increasing amount of scarcity and poverty on one end and growing profligacy and wealth on the other, with a shrinking middle zone of existence in-between. The threshold effect suggests that it is at the middle levels of resource use where basic needs are met and there is enough for a range of personal growth opportunities, so that society gets the most health and well being for its resource use.

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