How The Psychology Of Wealth Influences Mental Health

Can money truly alter our thoughts and actions? Research indicates it can! There are numerous benefits to being affluent, yet a prosperous lifestyle is not always as it looks. While the ultra-wealthy are the envy of many, money cannot buy happiness, and a wealthy lifestyle is fraught with difficulties. Women from affluent backgrounds frequently abandon their careers to become mothers, forgoing the identity and esteem that labour brings. While many elite wealthy men (fathers) are away from family life because they are preoccupied with operating enormous, profitable international enterprises, this is not the case for everybody.

Children experience particular challenges as well; they are frequently under pressure to succeed and flourish in school without the assistance of empathic coaching and parenting. A recent study demonstrates that riches can also confuse moral judgment; a number of studies indicate that affluence affects empathy and compassion. Perhaps being wealthy is not so impressive after all. There is evidence that the wealthy are disproportionately impacted by addiction. Consequently, life in the super-rich lane is not as it may appear from the outside. There are distinct pressures.

This blog examines the psychology of the ultra-wealthy and the mental health effects of becoming a billionaire.

The 'Affluenza' Affliction of Affluent Youth

In 2013, the wealthy teenager Ethan Couch killed four individuals while driving under the influence of alcohol. During the manslaughter trial, a psychologist testified that Couch suffered from "affluenza," which is defined as "irresponsibility caused by family affluence." The psychologist said that because Couch grew up in a super-wealthy family, he had a profound sense of luxury and lacked all sense of responsibility.

Ethan's defence attorneys stated that he grew up with no consequences for his poor behaviour. As a result, the sentence was surprisingly light: Instead of prison, Ethan Couch was sentenced to rehab and probation for 10 years. Almost sure, the penalty would have been drastically different if this offender had been a poor black child from a poor community. Throughout Ethan Couch's trial, his upbringing was exposed.

The tumultuous and occasionally violent relationship between his parents ultimately led to their divorce. At the time of the divorce settlement, a social worker's assessment determined that Ethan had a co-dependent relationship with his mother and lacked a regular and consistent interaction with his father. The social worker also stated, "Both parents have 'adulticide' Ethan by allowing him to participate excessively in adult issues and decisions." According to research, "affluence itself is a risk factor in adolescent development" - not only having money, but also how having money may corrupt ideals, parenting practices, and interpersonal interactions — all of which permeate Ethan Couch's life.

Substance Abuse and Alcoholism Among Affluent Adolescents

According to studies, the anxiety experienced by children from wealthy homes is 20-30% higher than that of children from less affluent families, and affluent youngsters are more prone to substance and alcohol abuse. There is often a steep cost associated with wealth. In addition to substance and alcohol misuse, wealthy adolescents have alarmingly high rates of despair, anxiety, eating disorders, dishonesty, and theft.

There are a number of probable explanations for this:

  • Parents, coaches, and peers exert a great deal of pressure/expectations for academic success.
  • More distant from parents and relatives
  • MRarely told "no" / a lack of limits
  • Increased availability of drugs and alcohol
  • Preoccupied with worldly possessions and fortune.
  • Peer pressure on the significance of physical appearance
  • Pressure at school and within the family to display no sign of weakness or frailty
  • Inhibited growth of friendships and closeness
  • Activity-scheduled lives with little time for free play.

This final point is a fascinating one. In her 2003 book, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Household Life, University of Pennsylvania sociologist Annette Lareau contrasted the parenting techniques of two black boys: one from an upper- middle-class family and another whose family received public assistance. She termed the parenting approach of affluent parents "Concentrated Cultivation." According to this parenting style, the objective of childhood is "to acquire abilities that will lead to bigger opportunities in the future," she explains.

In contrast, working-class parenting approaches revolve around the concept of "natural growth." Lareau notes that parents believe that providing love, nourishment, and protection is sufficient. These fundamental human needs are frequently neglected in wealthy households. When Lareau followed up with the children she had researched, she discovered that the working-class boy possessed a greater number of practical abilities than the privileged adolescent. She observed that middle-class parents tend to manage their adult children's lives in a manner that prolongs adolescence.

The Rich Dysfunctional Family

Obviously, not every extremely wealthy family is dysfunctional, but many are. Frequently, parents are absent from the home. They work long hours, travel frequently, and attend prestigious social functions. The diaries of nonworking parents (often moms) are filled with beauty appointments, fitness activities, and lunches and other social events with friends. Maintaining appearances in ultra-wealthy social circles is a full-time occupation! And appearing good is a prerequisite for success. It is typical for wealthy families to employ nannies or housekeepers to care for their children. They are then sent to the finest boarding institutions in the world. Obviously, the goal is to provide a child with the greatest education possible, yet boarding school has a detrimental psychological impact on the majority of students. Much has been written about how boarding schools develop persons with psychological damage.

For many, life at a boarding school is traumatic and represents a profound childhood trauma. The paper The Culture of Affluence by Suniya Luther, Professor Emerita of Psychology and Education at Columbia University Teachers College, examines the nature and potential causes of issues among the wealthy. She identified difficulties in multiple dimensions, including substance abuse, anxiety, and depression, as well as two significant sets of potential causes: parental seclusion and achievement demands. Boarding school intensifies both of these factors.

The Search for Additional Riches

Once a person obtains a substantial amount of wealth, he or she becomes obsessed with maintaining their fortune. Harvard behavioural scientist Ashley Whillans labels this "the toxic money attitude." She claims that many already-wealthy individuals pursue additional wealth with a focus on money, which is detrimental to their happiness. Whillans discovered, through a survey of the rich, that individuals were too focused on making money and not enough on having more time. However, research indicates that individuals who prioritize time above money are happier, have healthier relationships, stronger social ties, and have more work satisfaction.

The benchmarks of wealth are always altering. How many millions are sufficient? Wealthy individuals often compare themselves to others. Money is status, and wealthy individuals are frequently ingrained in a culture of outdoing others. Once you have the trappings of an affluent life, there is an intense desire to maintain it and surpass the affluence of your peers. Fear of losing these riches, power, and prestige undermines confidence and reveals uncertainty. This circumstance is extremely stressful and has an effect on mental health.

Moral Entitlement, Less Empathy

Psychologists have identified a "dark trio" of Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism in the personalities of billionaires. 10 Research indicates that extremely rich individuals are more prone to exhibit "self-promotion, emotional coldness, dishonesty, and aggression" and have a larger propensity to engage in numerous immoral acts. In privileged circles, there is a notable absence of compassion. According to research, many members of the affluent and upper classes lack compassion for others and can even behave callously.

During the 1980s, alleged incidences of habitual denigration, intimidation, and vandalism were commonplace at the prestigious Bullingdon Club at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. According to studies, persons from lower socioeconomic strata are better at interpreting facial emotions than wealthy individuals. A crucial aspect of empathy is the ability to accurately interpret facial expressions and seek to comprehend what another person is experiencing. Psychologists Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner of the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that as individuals acquire wealth and power, their empathy for others begins to diminish.

The Effect of Wealth on Psychological Health

Money may guarantee access to the greatest healthcare, but it does not guarantee health. As has been emphasized throughout this article, there are numerous downsides to affluence. The effect of affluence on mental health is a significant concern. Many prosperous lifestyles are accompanied by hardship, pain, childhood trauma, addiction, and depressive states. Children from extremely wealthy households may receive a superior education and upbringing, but they frequently grow up feeling alone and unwanted. Depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, and behavioural issues are extremely prevalent, so it's not surprising.

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Prepared by: Mr. Denny Prasad, Psychologist
LinkedIn Id: https://www.linkedin.com/in/denny-prasad-b55028124