Affluenza: An American Epidemic
Affluenza is an epidemic which effects millions of people in the United States.
“Until this century 20th, to consume was considered a bad thing” says Jeremy Rifkin an
expert on affluenza ( Gross ). The victims of affluenza are consumers who work long
hours at a job they hate so they can buy things which they don’t need ( Fight Club ). Like
AIDS, affluenza has spread quickly throughout the United States showing no prejudice
of race, sex or color. However, unlike AIDS, affluenza is a compulsive addiction to
shopping, which can be cured by spending less time consuming and more time enjoying
As the majority of parents work longer hours then other parents did in the past to
support their families, children are left at home under the supervision of a television
set. The television set constantly teaches children how to be good consumers.
Advertisements which appear on television are designed to make children feel unloved
by their mothers and fathers if they don’t buy them the newest toy, or take them to
the most exciting amusement park. Before the age affluenza a child would be considered
fortunate if he or she had a bike to ride or a doll to play with. Today, children expect their
parents to buy them expensive toys because advertising companies give children the idea
that deserve it.
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As children grow into teenagers, they begin to consume more and more and refuse
to accept any boundaries on material or physical things ( Gabrels ). Through advertising,
Corporations dictate what type of clothing teens should wear, what type of music teens
should listen to, and how teens should act. The desire to buy products which are
advertised to them is so strong that some teenagers become depressed and disturbed
when they don’t have money to buy as many material possessions as their peers. Many
other teens sacrifice their education by getting a part-time so they can spend more money
on their growing addiction.
Teenagers optimistically look forward to their adult years with ambitious dreams.
To their surprise, the dreams of being rich and famous which were offered to them on
every commercial break come crashing down as they become adults. If the gap between
the rich and the poor continues to increase, future generations will only be able to look
forward to poverty. The average employer in the United States now makes about 326
times more then the average employee. ( “The Affluenza’ Epidemic” ).
Working a repetitive job, credit debit and unhappiness are some of the other social
problems many teenagers will unknowingly have deal with as they enter the workforce.
As these teenagers grow into adults and have children of their own, they too will raise
their children with the help of television as their parents did. They will be led to believe
that they are helping their family relationship by staying at work later and spend less time
The effects of affluenza on our environment are also extremely horrifying. As a
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nation of consumers we neglect our environment, and believe that our natural resources
are inexhaustible. Roughly fifty percent of youth in the United States would rather go
shopping then enjoy a hike in the woods ( Willis ). According to Allan Gerald “Our
annual generation of total waste…would fill a convoy of garbage trucks half way to the
moon” ( “A Bad Case Of Affluenza'” ). Endangered species and global warming does
not concern people who are infected with affluenza. What concerns people who are
infected with affluenza are celebrity magazines and cable television ( Fight Club ).
Many people have found that volunteering to live a simpler life is a cure for
affluenza. Although affluenza seems to be dominating our culture, a small but strong
movement of people have been calling for a simpler life in the United States. Many
people who have volunteered for a simpler life are baby boomers who traded their
successful careers in hopes of a chance to try to raise a successful family. These simplistic
advocates work about half as much as the average American and live on a thrifty budget
( Gerlat ). The idea of living on a fixed income may sound strange to many people,
however, simplistic advocates enjoy spending more time with their children and spouses
and less time at work
As affluenza continues to dominate American behavior, many family advocates,
religious leaders, and political leaders are starting to wonder if advertisements and
consumerism will change the family ideals forever.
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Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. Perf. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. 20th Century Fox,
Gabrels, Sara Terry. “The Hard Questions Multiply”. Christian Science Monitor 12 Sept.
1997: Electronic Source, Ebscohost 27 June 2000.
Gerlat, Allan. “A Bad Case Of Affluenza'”. Waste News 22 Sept. 1997: Electronic
Source, Ebscohost 28 June 2000.
Gross, Linda. “Videos”. rev. of Affluenza by Scott Simon. Sierra Nov/Dec 1997:
Electronic Source, Ebscohost 27 June 2000.
“The Affluenza’ Epidemic”. World Press Review. April 1999: Electronic Source,
Ebscohost 27 June 2000.
Willis, Monica Michael. “Material Boys & Girls”. Country Living. April 2000: Electronic
Source, Ebscohost 28 June 2000.