consumerism lifestyle wealth

the suffering rich

61% of adults in the UK believe that they do not earn enough to cover their basic needs. You might want to read that again, and then think about what ‘basic needs’ are. It seems unbelievable, but this is one of the findings in a report entitled ‘Overconsumption in Britain‘, a paper Oliver James references in his book Affluenza.
As you might expect, people with higher salaries are less likely to believe they can’t afford everything they need, but still 46% of people earning over £35,000 said they couldn’t buy everything they needed.

What this seems to mean is that people in the UK have absolutely no idea what constitutes basic needs.  What is it exactly that 61% of us need but can’t afford? Hot tubs? Plastic surgery? A third car? The report calls us ‘the suffering rich’ – people who have everything they need and more, but have such enormous and insatiable wants that we feel hard done by and impoverished.

There are all sorts of reasons for this, and I’ll post more on it later. In the meantime, I really recommend reading the report, which is downloadable as a pdf from the Australia Institute.


  1. Absolutely astonishing! And yet we have never been more exposed to the needs of the Two Thirds world. What is wrong with us? Can we never have enough? Evidently the virtue of thankfulness has all but ceased to exist.

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