Affluenza

A term used to describe people who are never satisfied with their status and are in constant pursuit of more wealth and privilege

What is Affluenza?

Affluenza is a linguistic blend of the words – affluence and influenza. It is used to describe people in a consumerist society who are never satisfied with their status and are in constant pursuit of more wealth and privilege. It results in poor judgment from a failure to understand the consequences of their actions, a result of a “do whatever it takes mentality.”

 

Affluenza

 

The term was made popular in the Ethan Couch case, who was sentenced to probation and therapy after being charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter. The sentence was considered by a large group of people as lenient, as no prison time was meted at the time. The term described the psychological phenomena of not perceiving consequences due to a lack of limits imposed by parents.

 

Summary

  • Affluenza is used to describe people in a consumerist society who are never satisfied with their status and are in constant pursuit of more wealth and privilege.
  • The symptoms of affluenza include a parochial fixation on work and getting rich, deteriorating relationships, loneliness, self-worth derived directly from financial status, and trouble engaging with or connecting to anyone else.
  • Since affluenza is not an official medical condition – but rather a result of environmental and circumstantial factors – there isn’t a set treatment for it; however, there are things that individuals suffering from affluenza or individuals looking to assist afflicted friends or relatives can do to prevent or minimize its impacts or development.

 

Brief History of Affluenza

The term affluenza was supposedly first used in the 1950s but later became more popular during the 1990s through the release of a documentary (titled “Affluenza”) and followed by the release of a book titled “Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic” in the early 2000s. The book was later revised in 2005 and 2014.

With reference to the latter publications, affluenza was described as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.” The term later became even more popular in 2013 through the Ethan Couch case, where the accused allegedly suffered from affluenza, and it was used as a defense for him.

 

The Theories Behind Affluenza

Affluenza is founded on the theory that individuals who suffer from the condition believe that happiness can be obtained through monetary means. Such individuals are later confronted with the fact that their desire and pursuit of wealth do not necessarily result in fulfillment, and it leaves them in an ongoing cycle of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. The individuals also face trouble with distinguishing between what is ethical and unethical because they function under the assumption that they are above others and are shielded by their privilege. They tend to lack empathy.

Also, individuals afflicted by affluenza function under the primary goal that attaining economic wealth and success are the most important aspects of life, but later discover that such a way of living leaves them more dissatisfied after achieving the wealthy status they previously desired. They always want more and are, therefore, never content.

Presently, societies have seen notable growth in wealth and income inequalities. Individuals who are more financially well off tend to keep to themselves and see themselves as intellectually and socially advanced and above the rules of society. These individuals are believed to have a high sense of entitlement. Affluenza is not a medically recognized disease.

 

Common Symptoms of Affluenza

The symptoms of affluenza include a parochial fixation on work and getting rich, deteriorating relationships, loneliness, self-worth derived directly from financial status, and trouble engaging with or connecting to anyone else.

 

Potential Ways to Counter Affluenza

Since affluenza is not an official medical condition – but rather a result of environmental and circumstantial factors – there isn’t a set treatment for it; however, there are things that individuals suffering from affluenza or individuals looking to assist afflicted friends or relatives can do to prevent or minimize its impacts or development.

 

Money management

Potential sufferers or sufferers of affluenza need to be educated on money management to enable them to create and attain wealth. For parents looking to ensure their children do not fall victim to the “disease,” they can educate their children on money management through establishing controlled financial freedom for their children.

It can be done through a savings account for the child to learn how to save money they’ve earned or received. It builds up a savings-oriented mindset and diminishes spending tendencies.

 

Money is to be earned

Potential sufferers or sufferers of affluenza need to understand the importance of working for their money. In terms of children, they can be given money for completing a chore. It teaches them the importance of hard work and is likely to make them think more sensibly about spending the money they’ve earned. Older children or adolescents can take on part-time employment to earn money.

 

Empathy

Empathy is an important trait for building and maintaining social connections. Potential sufferers or sufferers of affluenza need to understand the importance of being empathetic to those around them, to foster a spirit of kindness, and to allow for the formation of connections with the rest of the world.

Additional Resources

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