- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

Anxious but affluent, rich but unhappy. Oh, dear: The moneyed have their troubles, too.

And Americans are the unhappiest rich folks of them all.

A new survey of some 11,000 high-income people from 11 countries found that Americans — followed by the Australians, Japanese and Canadians — are the most anxious among the well-heeled.

Two-thirds of Americans who make more than $60,000 a year say they’re stressed out several times a week; 63 percent of Australians, 60 percent of Japanese and 58 percent of Canadians in similar circumstances felt the same way.

The survey was conducted by Roper Starch for American Express over several months this year and released Thursday. .

And where there is stress, there is a psychological syndrome, of course. In the case of troubled rich folks, it’s called “affluenza,” a term coined by Milwaukee-based therapist Jessie O’Neill, who said the moneyed can have “a dysfunctional relationship with wealth, or the pursuit of it.”

Among other things, the afflicted affluent have trouble tolerating frustration. They also suffer from a false sense of entitlement, loss of motivation and self-confidence, and low self-esteem and self-worth.

But the moneyed aren’t always a mess.

Residents in Hong Kong are the most laid back, the survey found, followed by the Brazilians, Germans, Italians, Mexicans, French and British.

“We were intrigued that a busy place like Hong Kong is the home of the most easy-going people,” Elizabeth Coleman of American Express said Friday.

“Most of them typically work over nine hours a day, and they typically have an hour commute to work, too,” she continued. “The only thing we can figure is that the Hong Kong residents have a kind of optimism, a belief that things will get better. Hong Kong residents have become accustomed in recent years to rapid change in their economy or living conditions. They just seem to go with the flow.”

The survey revealed other cultural mysteries, too.

Relaxed Brazilians — 24 percent of whom said they “never” feel stressed — spent the most time with their families, about 74 hours a week. The average is typically 40 hours a week among respondents from all 11 countries.

Yet affluent Americans reported the more time they spent with their families, the more stressed they felt. Those who spent 45 hours a week with family were anxious every day, while those who felt “occasionally” stressed spent 36 hours.

“Things are so busy in America that even time spent with family become stress time,” Miss Coleman said. “It’s a difference in culture.”

The rich, in the meantime, fret about other things.

Terrorism preoccupies the nation’s wealthiest residents more than ever, but for economic rather than personal reasons: 86 percent say they worry it will disturb the economy and securities market, according to a survey released Nov. 1 by U.S. Trust, a financial-management group. The figure stood at 76 percent last year.

Wealthy women have their own sets of travails.

According to a survey of 900 affluent women by the Journal of Epidemiology released earlier this year, 71 percent of them are “dissatisfied with their bodies,” compared with 58 percent of women who lived under average financial circumstances.

“In wealthier neighborhoods, the culture probably magnified the importance of thinness,” the study noted.


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