One in Seven Adults
hit by Mental Disorder:
According to a UK government report,
one in seven adults suffers from clinical anxiety,
clinical depression or some other psychological
disorder. The study, conducted in the mid-90s,
showed the most common problem was a mixed anxiety
and depressive disorder, affecting 7% of the
The Independent, 15th December 1994).
Record Levels of
Consumer Debt in US and UK:
Average debt per UK family: £6,000
The Guardian, 29th September 2000).
C O N T R O L S Y
S T E M S
The Consumer-anxiety System
How do anxiety levels of the general population
affect the volume of sales of consumer goods?
Is there an optimum level of consumer anxiety
(optimum from the point of view of the seller)
at which the amount of sales of consumer goods
This optimum level would obviously
be somewhere between two extremes Ė at one end
of the scale the consumer never buys anything
because of being too scared to go outside or
too anxious to spend more money than absolutely
necessary. At the other end of the scale the
person is so content already (ie complete lack
of anxiety) that there is no compulsive need
to consume and no desire to purchase status
Could this optimum level of anxiety
be maintained against our wishes by the constant
bombardment of impressions about the real
world from the media networks? One example could
be the constant focusing on crime in news, current
affairs, drama, films, soap operas... everywhere.
In a society where everything is dominated
by commercialism, the above mentioned optimum
anxiety level will gradually manifest itself
as a result of the pressure of all the structures
and systems that are in place to maximise sales.
For example, market research may determine,
for an insurance company, that the best responses
to a TV commercial were achieved when it was
shown after a worrying TV programme about crime.
The TV stations therefore increase the number
of such programmes up to a point where market
research indicates a downturn in consumer response.
It isnít just insurance and burglar alarm sales
that benefit from public anxiety, however. Anxious
people are inclined to eat and drink compulsively,
need more distractions (newspapers, TV etc)
and more propping-up of their fragile self-image
through lifestyle products and status
They will even go into debt to acquire whatever
items they are led to believe will quell their
social-comparison anxieties. Exactly how
much they will go into debt before their
financial anxiety overrides their social-status
anxiety is yet to be determined. Average consumer
debt levels continue to rise, and financial
services markets make it ever easier, and more
socially acceptable, to go into debt.
Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan has
reportedly said that insecure workers
are vital to the health of the economy, since
they keep inflation low (by being too scared
to risk asking for wage increases).