Affluenza: Who’s to Blame?
Affluenza: Who’s to Blame?
Affluenza: Who’s to Blame?
Affluenza is an epidemic outbreak caused by people’s materialistic, greedy need to buy things, which has resulted to the current struggles that our society is challenged with today (de Graff, Boe, 1998). The Public Broadcasting Service Production website on Affluenza defines this epidemic as:

The bloated, sluggish, and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses.
An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste, and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream.
An unsustainable addiction to economic growth (PBS, 1998).
Affluenza has been affecting the United States for centuries and dates back to the 1600’s with the founders of the New World. Quakers and Puritans, who founded the New World, settled in Massachusetts with a belief that “material instincts would displace God from people’s hearts” and that “any excess wealth was to be shared with the poor” (PBS, 1998).

During the middle of the seventeenth-century, the Quaker’s and Puritan’s views on affluenza changed. Their “practice of simplicity” weakened as various opportunities emerged for businessmen and the economy thrived in prosperity (PBS 1998).

The affects of this epidemic were truly experienced by society in 1925 as materialism overpowered citizens with the introduction of General Motor’s “yearly automobile model change” (PBS, 1998). General Motor’s concept urged citizens to purchase a new vehicle on a yearly basis to keep up with the ever-changing trends and new developing styles in transportation. This transition marked the beginning point of “American consumer culture,” the crazed era of style and looks (PBS, 1998). At this point in time, people were no longer concerned about simplicity, but rather consumption. The main cultural concern focused on what looked right, what was in style, and what trend needed to be maintained.

Diners Club introduced the first credit card to the public during the 1950’s. Within ten years the convenience of credit cards swept the nation, creating a revolution with the two words “charge it” (PBS, 1998). Credit cards allowed people to indulge themselves in materialistic items that seemed unattainable, with an easy payment plan of just one bill at the end of each month.

By the 1980’s, recognition of consumption caused concern for many individuals, and the idea of reduction was initiated. For the first time, the affects of this epidemic were put into clear view, and affluenza was perceived as a corruption to society; a problem that required awareness and attention, as well as a concern that needed to be addressed and resolved (PBS, 1998).

Gaps between the groups of rich and poor where widest in the United States during the 1980’s than any other nation, with one-fifth of the world population living in low standard, undeveloped areas. Since the 1950’s, Americans alone have used consumptions more than anyone in the world before them combined (de Graff, Boe, 1998).

The affluenza epidemic has spread rapidly, and consumption has taken over civilization throughout the United States. These affects of the epidemic continue to flourish and expand from precedent generations to present day society. As the rich persist to get richer, the poor continue to get poorer. Today’s society has taken steps to reduce consumption, but the gradual progression does not seem to be moving fast enough to keep up with the increasing consumption rates.

A major affect of affluenza in today’s society is the fact that American consumers are spending more and enjoying less. Society is spending more money on materialistic items out of greed, which intensifies overall unhappiness (de Graff, Boe, 1998). We are unable to satisfy our needs, and nothing is ever good enough since there will always be something better than what we have. As stated by Richard Swenson in the video Affluenza, “countries with the most prosperity have the most stress” (de Graff, Boe, 1998). People in society today are being pushed beyond their emotional and physical limits in effort to achieve more, causing stress rates to escalate (de Graff, Boe, 1998).

The assumed prevailing culprit for the spread of affluenza throughout our nation is the media. As stated in Karen Sternheimer’s article It’s Not the Media: The Truth about Pop Culture’s Influence on Children, “[m]edia . . . has become a scapegoat, onto which we lay blame a host of social problems” (Ferguson, 2008, p. 460).

Our society is inclined to pass responsibility on others, rather than faulting ourselves

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