Hedonic treadmill is a variant of the term hedonic adaptation, which compares an individual's "pursuit of happiness to a person on a treadmill, who has to keep working just to stay in the same place" (Wikipedia).
Social etiquette or stipulations or expectations can be a factor that molds the ability to adapt in individuals, and hence, in the community as a whole. The human beings obey or conform to certain unwritten axioms of the society which are considered to be the acceptable norms of the community. This leads to his or her voluntary suppression of certain needs or aspirations as a matter of course. This can also be caused by biases or prejudices that prevail in the society, for example, those that are based on genders, age groups, social status, hierarchies, income levels, etc.
Religious principles, beliefs or way of life can also lead to an individual's conforming to certain expectations and thereby compromising on his wants, achievements and aspirations as well as his choices. If a human being can actually be happy with his misfortunes based on his religious beliefs, for example, of his or her miseries being God-given or his or her state being the will of God, etc., then his mental status would actually be happy. This means that even the unemployed, the beggar and the exploited can feel happy and satisfied with their lot. However, this may facilitate the study of human well-being and development unfavorably.
In adjusting to a worse life situation, an individual's adaptation is downwardly directed. That is, he or she adjusts to being happy being in a circumstance worse than he or she used to be in. This kind of adaptation is harmful or damaging in that it influences the individual to avert from making rational or reasonable choices. This, naturally, affects development and its applications aversely. This is a conclusion more from an economic or a materialistic point of view, but when you take into consideration an extremely economically backward and thoroughly deprived community, "it is only prudent to wonder how much suffering and misery there would be in the absence of adaptation" (Clark 8).
Another form of adaptation is that which is a result of inadequate know-how or awareness. When an individual is not equipped with adequate knowledge, his or her choices, naturally, will not be rational, reasonable or optimum for him or her. In such cases the utility concepts cannot be ideal for conducting development studies and practices. The parameters may change for situations where the individual is able to gather knowledge and where he or she is not. However, with modern-day advancements in the technology of communication, the disparity in the capability levels of acquiring information is going to be less and less.
An individual who is in an extremely lowly situation, with most of the essentials of life not being fulfilled to any decent degree whatsoever, if he has adapted to his situation without complaints, as it usually happens in most of the low-economic groups, and he is resigned to be happy with the little pleasures that is available to him, he may not appear to be highly deprived in terms of utility. In such cases, the concepts of utility may not be the reliable or adequate bases for studying human well-being.
From all of the factors