Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

Are You and Your Family Suffering From Affluenza?
How to Break Free From the Over-Consumption Mindset



Americans are willing to put up with a lot in order to achieve the “American Dream:” ever-increasing debt, long work hours, and hardly any time for family or pursuit of leisure activities, not to mention health-harming stress.


Is your family suffering from affluenza? Keep reading to find out …

Yet, we plod along day in and day out in pursuit of the extravagant lifestyle we see on TV, or a facsimile thereof, despite its ability to erode our better judgment and squelch the deeper meaning of what life is really all about.

At the root of the problem, and some might say the cause of the housing market slump and credit collapse, is affluenza.

What is Affluenza?

It’s “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more,” says John De Graaf in his book Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic.

In America, where people are often measured by how much they own and many of us are embattled in our own internal struggles to keep up with the Joneses, affluenza is considered to be widespread … perhaps more widespread than anywhere else in the world.

Not only does this cause us to use up far more than our share of natural resources, while producing more than our share of waste, it causes us to go deeply into debt.

A Reuters article reported in January 2009 that “U.S. consumers have never before been so deeply in debt.” As of October 2009, there was close to $1 trillion of credit and charge card debt outstanding, which is up more than 25 percent since 2003, the Federal Reserve reports. And this doesn’t include the $10.54 trillion in mortgage debt.

What Causes Affluenza?

Quite simply, we’re living in a society that encourages us to buy more things in order to be happy. But the simplicity ends there.

The numerous factors driving Americans to over-consume are complex and varied. In the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology, author Amy Novotney suggests several major issues are at play:

  • Too many demands, leading to loss of self-control. Research shows that we only have so much willpower. So if you are under a lot of stress and face numerous highly disciplined tasks in a day, you may run out of willpower when it comes to saving your money.
  • Credit cards. They encourage us to buy more now and worry about it later, conditioning us to build debt from a very young age.
  • Advertisers: Everywhere you turn there are advertisements trying to get you to buy something. This is true even in our own homes, where we can purchase items over the Internet, by phone or by catalogue (prior to the 1970s, at least your home was still an advertisement-free zone).

The Problem? Buying Things Will Not Make You Happy

"People may have more physical objects and possessions now than they had in previous generations, but many of them are deeply unhappy," psychologist Stuart Vyse, PhD says in Novotney’s article.

On the contrary, research shows that stress about money and debt is a leading cause of marriage problems and can lead to depression.

Further, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, 8.5 million Americans have already taken a second job to meet regular household expenses or pay off debt. And what will working more hours do? Simply add to your feelings of overwhelming stress and continue to erode the quality of your life.

The truth remains that when it comes to our most valuable assets, most are things that cannot be bought. Family and friends would certainly apply to this category. So would your health, time, knowledge, or, as Mark Twain said, truth.

It would be impossible to put a price tag on any of the above.

How to Cure Yourself and Your Family of Affluenza

Are you ready to break free from the over-consumption mindset that may already be making you miserable? Here is the cure:

  1. Stop buying things you don’t need. Before you make any purchase, seriously analyze whether its value is worth the money you’ll pay for it and the resources used to make it. If necessary, avoid going to the mall or leave your credit cards at home so you’re not tempted.
  1. Make a budget. Make sure you’re earning more than you’re spending, and really evaluate any spending for non-necessities.


Helping your kids and grandkids learn good personal finance skills at a young age will not only give them a head-start in understanding and effectively managing money down the road, but will also have a direct impact on their overall health and well-being.

  1. Question your reasons for spending. Are you buying something to fill an emotional void? Improve your self-esteem? Because you’re bored? To prove to your kids that you love them? If so it’s time to address your emotional challenges and put away your checkbook in the meantime.
  1. Teach your kids to be smart about money. Kids must understand that, along with having money to spend now, they need money to save for short-term goals, money to invest for long-term goals, and money to donate to charities or others in need. And they need to know not to spend more than they earn.
  1. Get involved in fun and free activities. Become a volunteer. Go for a hike with your family. Organize potluck dinners for you and your neighbors. In other words, reconnect with your community and nature, and remember that you don’t have to spend money to enjoy life. Teach your kids this concept too and you’ll be giving them a gift that will last a lifetime!
  1. Simplify your life. By buying fewer things and staying debt-free, you’ll realize that you suddenly gain a whole lot of freedom. You can work fewer hours and actually have time to stop and smell the roses in life. Ultimately, it’s simply a matter of choosing what’s more important to you: continuing the rat race or enjoying your life to its fullest.

Recommended Reading

Spending Your Money on Doing Things vs. Owning Things Will Make You Happier

The Six Debt Triggers for Women


APA: Monitor on Psychology Volume 39, No. 7 July/August 2008 Affluenza: The Show

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This