The Current

Studies reveal the super-rich suffer anxiety, lack of empathy due to wealth

The so-called Panama Papers may have revealed more about the lifestyles of the rich than TV host Robin Leach ever did. The Current goes inside the minds of the one per cent and looks at how money changes psychology.
Panama Papers revelations have stoked global outrage at the entitlement of the super-rich. (Ines Hegedus-Garcia/Flickr cc)

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The recent leak of the so-called Panama Papers has revealed just how common it is for the super-rich to squirrel away billions in offshore tax havens. And it also brought to light an unsavoury sense of entitlement that stoked global outrage at the upper-upper crust.   

But what makes the super-rich tick? 

Studies reveal the richer you are the less empathy you feel. (Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)
The now-defunct Center on Wealth and Philanthropy conducted a survey of the very rich. Respondents were invited to write freely about how prosperity shaped their lives and those of their children. The survey results have never been made public but The Atlantic was granted access to portions of the research.

One of the most common things participants of this survey revealed is there aversion to discuss dilemmas in public.

The survey results also showed super-rich people were dissatisfied a lot and wealth contributed to deep anxieties involving love, work and family. As well, respondents who earned their wealth rather then inherit their fortune, worry less about their self-worth.

In addition, studies by a team at Yale University found the more wealth people have, the more poorly they are in reading people's emotions. Often the wealthier the person, the more autonomous a person became — paying more attention to goals and less attention to people's emotions.

Guest in this segment:

  • Geoffrey Loomer, associate professor at Dalhousie University's Schulich School of Law.
  • Graeme Wood, contributing editor at The Atlantic and the Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Michael Kraus, assistant professor of organizational behaviour at Yale University. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Ines Colabrese and Shannon Higgins.