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Affluenza
Affluenza “Why do government-
  funded studies show
  that fifty per cent of the
  UK population are on
  the edge of a nervous
  breakdown?”


SUPPOSEDLY AFFLUENT, WHY IS THERE SO MUCH STRESS IN TODAY
'S SOCIETY? Why is the UK rate so much higher twice the average of mainland Western European countries and nearly six times that of Shanghai or Nigeria? The big question is, Can we do anything about it?

Distinguished psychologist and bestselling author Oliver James thinks we can and, backed by The British Council, he travelled the world to research Affluenza, his highly-readable, thought-provoking book. Having identified the source of this emotional turmoil, he has dubbed it 'The Affluenza Virus'.

The Affluenza Virus is the placing of too high a value on money, pos-sessions, appearances (physical and social) and fame. During his research into the 'affliction', Oliver James found that those obsessed with these values are at a greater risk of suffering the most common forms of emotional distress — depression, anxiety, personality dis-orders or a tendency towards substance abuse.

Okay, so far. Some television programmes lead you to believe that everyone is obsessed with celebrity, is envious of those who have what they believe should be theirs and has a desperate need to keep up with the Jones. So, can it be possible to be successful and still
stay sane?

If we recognise that we've been infected by this Affluenza Virus, this
is a turning point. In a sensible way, Oliver uses psychology and a smattering of life encouragement as he delves into the past to under-stand what's happening and identify 'The Vaccines'.

Studies were carried out in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, China, Russia, Denmark and America, interviewing in depth at least thirty citizens per nation. The majority of people concerned were middle and upper-middle class professionals and while most were infected with the virus, there were significant exceptions. Alongside personal interviews, Oliver James looked at scientific studies devoted to particular countries to provide a wider view. His findings from country to country are startlingly different and provide clues to how society can be improved.

Above all, James demonstrates that English speaking nations (Britain, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) are twice as prone to emotional distress compared with mainland Western European ones. Over a fifth of Australians are now emotionally distressed, having been widely exposed to the Affluenza Virus by Selfish Capitalism. To his surprise and pleasure, Oliver finds that the much-vaunted globalization of the world has by no means infected all of it, and that there are strong grounds for hope.

Oliver explains the cornerstone of Chinese emotional well-being: "If you fail, if you really have given it your best shot, you are not culpable". You must accept it and move on and take responsibility for yourself. It's interesting to read his account of a depressed young Chinese woman called Tai. Oliver James talks of "Tai asserting that only she
can decide what course her life will take".

He suggests: "Form as truthful and accurate an assessment as possible of yourself and your society, rather than living in a rose-tinted bubble of positive illusions." He encourages positive volition, and "to believe in your capacity to achieve goals, however modest they may be, so long as they are realistic".

Highlighting the confusion of 'wants' with 'needs', Oliver also explores his own disappointments and urges the enjoyment of what you have and an acceptance that you can't have everything. When you get the wake-up call it all sounds very reasonable.

Affluenza helps you to strengthen your emotional immune system, resist the epidemic and reconnect with the important things in life.
You can also understand how you are affected by society and
learn how you can live your life more productively. Oliver advises:

* Have Positive Volition (Not 'Think' Positive)

* Replace Virus Motives (With Intrinsic Ones)

* Be Beautiful (Not Attractive)

* Consume What You Need (Not What Advertisers Want You To Want)

* Meet Your Children's Needs (Not Those of Little Adults)

* Educate Your Children (Don't Brainwash Them)

* Enjoy Motherhood, Not Desperate Housewife/Househusbandry

* Be Authentic (Not Sincere), Vivacious (Not Hyperactive) and Playful (Not Game-Playing)

Affluenza provides a detailed account of the way in which the virus
has destroyed new Labour — how 'Blairism' became 'Blatcherism', and captures the moment, triggering extensive debate and controversy.
I found the book extremely interesting and helpful, from the first page to the appendices, studies and notes at the back. My advice is to
read this book as soon as possible! But did it cure me of my Affluenza? I have re-evaluated my life as everybody should, from time to time.
But I do still dream of the German Cabriolet in the drive of the house overlooking the sea.

Affluenza by Oliver James is a Sunday Times bestseller that has sold over 22,000 copies in hardback. It was published by Vermilion on 10 January (2008) in paperback at an RRP of 8.99. (ISBN: 9780091900
113).

"Never before have I read a book that so precisely captures the way we are all being emotionally snookered by the demands of 21st century living" — Jeremy Vine

"Oliver James is our foremost chronicler of what ails us. Affluenza should be mandatory reading for everyone" — Will Self

"Just as Aids is stalking the globe, so is the Affluenza virus. I think he's right. So will you" — William Leith, The Guardian

"Oliver James is excellent at showing why social scientists think that the surge in material affluence can produce the opposite of happiness. What he adds is a sizzling reality check, which takes us into homes, workplaces and streets in seven cities worldwide" — Avner Offer, Chichele Professor of Economic History, Oxford University

"Very well written, full of interesting stories" — The Spectator

"Absorbing and effective wake-up call" — London Lite

"Everybody should evaluate their lives from time to time. And Affluenza is just the book to help you to do it" — Maggie Woods, MotorBar

Oliver James trained and practised as a clinical child psychologist and, since 1987, has worked as a writer, journalist and television docu-mentary producer and presenter. His books include the bestselling They F*** You Up which has sold over 70,000 copies in the UK and con-tinues to sell around 200 copies a week. The revised and updated edition is published by Bloomsbury on 25 January (8.99 ppr). Oliver James is the resident psychologist on ITV's This Morning and presented and produced the successful Channel 4 documentary series, Britain on the Couch. He is also a trustee of Homestart UK, a children's charity, and has provided Blue Skies Thinking for both the Labour and Tory parties.