The west (North America and Europe) is the richest region in the world. You get what you strive for; and as they have striven for prosperity and development, they have got it. But this obsession with wealth has had effects on their psyche. The sole mission of most of the people there is to get prosperous and thus they focus all of their energy and their resources to this end.
Money and Happiness
Is it good to be materialistic? No it is not. There are many things that complete life and being financially stable is just one of those many things. You need to have happy relationships, a happening social life, an engaging job and interesting hobbies. All these factors contribute to make a person happy. Studies have repeatedly shown that just being wealthy is not enough to keep you happy. Okay there is a certain level of wealth that you need to attain to be secure and fulfill your basic needs, but after that level, having more money never translates into being happier. After that level, other things become more important to individuals.
Then why do people think that money is happiness. It is due to a fundamental belief that you can buy anything with money. With money, yes you can buy luxuries and afford vacations but they cannot make you happy as long as you don't have a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle.
Money and Status
Another factor that makes people in the west materialistic is that social standings in the west are solely based upon how wealthy the person is. This leads to a frantic mania to get rich as quickly as you can. With money, it is assumed, you can have a social status, luxuries and an impressive personality. This is all an illusion. Money brings with it its own problems too. Studies have shown that often millionaires are more depressed that people who earn average wages. This might be due to added pressures of handling businesses for rich businessmen or handling the media for famous stars. This means that the millions in the banks do not contribute to make you happier. What is the point of such wealth?