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Affluenza is a term used by critics of consumerism. It is a portmanteau word formed by the contraction of affluence and influenza. Sources define this term as follows:

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. (de Graaf, 2002)
affluenza, n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. (PBS)

According to the 2005 Australian book titled Affluenza by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss, the term was popularized in the United States by the 1997 documentary of the same name from KCTS and Seattle and Oregon Public Broadcasting. John de Graaf, producer of the documentary, also co-authored a book with the same title.

Affluenza in AmericaEdit

Consumerism has been criticized by many groups in America ranging from the hippies of the 1960s to religious groups in the 1990s.

Affluenza in AustraliaEdit

Hamilton and Denniss's book poses the question: "if the economy has been doing so well, why are we not becoming happier?" (pvii). The authors note that Australia's GDP doubled between 1980 and 2005 (p3), but that "it is now well established that once income levels reach a particular threshold further increases do not increase national happiness" (p63).

Their conclusion is as follows: "Since the early 1990s, Australia has been infected by affluenza, a growing and unhealthy preoccupation with money and material things. This illness is constantly reinforcing itself at both the individual and the social levels, constraining us to derive our identities and sense of place in the world through our consumption activity." (p178) They argue that affluenza causes over-consumption, "luxury fever", consumer debt, overwork, waste, and harm to the environment. These pressures lead to "psychological disorders, alienation and distress" (p179), causing people to "self-medicate with mood-altering drugs and excessive alcohol consumption" (p180).

They note that a number of Australians have reacted by "downshifting" — that is, they have made a decision to "reduce their incomes and place family, friends and contentment above money in determining their life goals" (p180). (While Hamilton and Denniss recognize voluntary simplicity as a component of downshifting, they characterize downshifters in broader terms.)

Their critique leads them to identify the need for an "alternative political philosophy" (p193), and the book concludes with a "political manifesto for wellbeing" (see [1]).

Affluenza in popular cultureEdit

In the album "Un"(2004), Chumbawamba refers to the disease in the track "Buy nothing day".

My doctor told me to stay out of town, Buy, buy, buy
He said, "Affluenza will get you down", Buy, buy, buy

Affluenza is sinking into American popular culture. Sheryl Crow's 2002 song "Soak Up The Sun" features the line "It's not having what you want. It's wanting what you've got." The latest Simpsons Halloween Special notes Homer saying that animals in zoos are "bored, obese, and have lost their sense of meaning. The American Dream."


See alsoEdit

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Wiktionary: Affluenza

External linksEdit

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