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 is
This "optimum" level would obviously be somewhere
between two extremes 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 symbols.
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
It isnt 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 symbols.
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).
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 population.
(Source: The Independent, 15th December 1994).
Record Levels of Consumer Debt in US and UK:
Average debt per UK family: £6,000 and rising.
(Source: The Guardian, 29th September 2000).