Culture of Consumerism
Christopher Lasch, in the Culture of Narcissism (1979), has highlighted the history and boom of consumerism. As quoted in the book, the couture of consumerism started dominating after the shift in industrialization. After the war, the corporate market experienced a major change when the boom shifted from machine and manufacturing industries to consumer-goods market. However, the industrial shift was immediately followed by the global financial crisis when consumer debt rose to $41.7 billion from $27.4 billion. The “buy now and pay later” culture left millions of people homeless. The culture of consumerism has impacted global economy in an unprecedented manner and according to capitalists has a culture can be considered as one of the biggest factors for ever worsening financial crisis. Not only it has impacted world’s market, but has also given rise to financial stress.
Consumerism and Financial Stress
According to Durning (1992), there are a number positive aspects of globalization, but one of the biggest negative aspects of globalization is consumerism. The culture encourages people to spend more than their capacity. Investing more than the available resources always forces a person to seek external aid. With the ease of access to a number of loan options, people are being motivated towards consumerism. According to Goodwin et al. (1997), the consumers’ market has greatly changed due to a number of loan options. People are getting into a habit of buying more than they need which ultimately leads to financial crisis.
Goodwin also states that the culture of consumerism is not only promoting financial crisis, it is also a way of wasting resources. The growing expectations of consumers are forcing the industrialists for mass production of goods. According to Roberts (2012), apart from worsening financial instability in the world, consumerism has become of the biggest factors for increasing the percentage of people suffering for various psychological disorders due to stress. This is the reason that psychologists have included consumerism in the list of most common stressors and are focusing on proposing therapy and counseling solutions for motivating people to change their lifestyles.
Ways in Which Consumerism can Impact Mental Health
Landes (2013), in a research article, has highlighted the fact that financial stress can impact mental health and people can suffer from chronic depressive disorders due to financial instability. As availability of resources and financial stability are two of the biggest factors for prosperous life, psychologists consider that the stress caused due to financial issues impact human psychology in a very damaging way. Here are some of the ways in which financial stress can impact mental health, as highlighted by Landes:
1. Cognitive Distress
Cognitive distress caused by financial issues refers to the state when a person is always concerned about his/her income-to-expenses ratio. The distress has a long-term effect on the cognitive and social behavior of a person. It can also cause other problems like irregular blood pressure or heart diseases.
Every third person in the world is suffering from depression and financial stress is one of the biggest factors of depression. Depression not only impacts the mental health of a person but also impacts his/her family, social circle, communication and interaction skills. People suffering from depression usually end up as drug or alcohol addicts (Shivani et al., 2009).
3. Decision Making Abilities
Landes in the study also reveals the fact that a depressed mind has poor decision making abilities. As the mind is distracted, it cannot think in multiple dimensions at the same time. Impaired decision making abilities can impact the professional life of a person.
Landes also highlights the fact that people suffering from depression complain about sleeplessness which ultimately leads to anxiety. Anxiety has countless negative effects on the physical and mental health of a person, like weight loss, stress on heart, loss of appetite, etc.
5. Slow Response
Like many other psychologists, Landes also concludes that a distressed mind has very slow response. A person preoccupied with financial worries cannot think quickly and usually ends up making wrong decisions.
How to Not Get Pulled?
Among a number of traditional ways of avoiding consumerism and financial stress, a study of the American Psychology Association suggests that therapies and psychological treatment can also help a person not to get pulled in consumerism. Therapies can improve the decision making and thinking abilities of a person and he/she can decide in better way that which investments are right for him/her. Psychological treatment can also help a person cope with traumas caused due to financial stress.
Durning, A. (1992). How much is enough? NY: W.W. Norton.
Goodwin, N., Ackerman, F., & Kiron, D. (Eds.). (1997). The consumer society. Washington, DC:
Landes L. (2012). Financial Problems Impair Cognitive Abilities.
Roberst J. (2012). The Dark Side of Consumerism.
Shivani R., Goldsmith J. and Anthenelli R. (2009). Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Christie Hunter is registered clinical counselor in British Columbia and co-founder of Theravive. She is a certified management accountant. She has a masters of arts in counseling psychology from Liberty University with specialty in marriage and family and a post-graduate specialty in trauma resolution. In 2007 she started Theravive with her husband in order to help make mental health care easily attainable and nonthreatening. She has a passion for gifted children and their education. You can reach Christie at 360-350-8627 or write her at christie - at - theravive.com.