books consumerism economics lifestyle wealth

Affluenza’m reading a fascinating book at the moment, ‘Affluenza‘ by Oliver James. It’s an exploration of psychology and wealth, investigating the high levels of emotional distress in wealthy countries. Where you would expect people in rich countries to have what they need and have easier lives, the reality is that the richer the country is along the American model, the higher the instances of ’emotional distress’ will be – depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and so on.

Almost a quarter of Britons suffer from emotional distress, just over a quarter of Americans, about a fifth of Australians. Nigeria, by contrast, reports just over 4% of its adult population will have suffered emotional distress in the last 12 months. James calls this phenomenon the affluenza virus, a rich man’s worry.

Interestingly, it only applies to countries in the American model of capitalism – what James calls ‘selfish capitalism’ – the model of privatisation, de-regulation, market forces and heavy consumption. There are other models. Denmark is a wealthy country that is still happy, and James explains why.

It’s given me lots to think about and write about, and I’ll follow up some of his sources and see where it takes me. In the meantime, I suggest you take the online affluenza diagnosis and see if you’re infected.


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