The World Economic Forum draws many of the best and the brightest minds from the most competitive economies in the world. Leaders from the most peaceful countries are expected to attend, along with representatives of the smallest and largest countries by population, and quite possibly the most densely populated country.
All of these countries, including the world’s safest countries or even the happiest country, even those at the top of the World Happines Report, have one thing in common, and it isn’t the gender gap, patterns of movement of people, or worries about the state of the earth in 100 years. All are concerned about the growing problem with mental health and addiction, both of which present significant economic and moral dilemmas.
Addiction at the Top of the Ladder
All the money and prestige in the world doesn’t provide safety and security against substance abuse and addiction. In fact, numerous studies in the past couple of decades suggest that at least half of all wealthy, high-profile people have some type of addiction — substantially more than folks in the middle income brackets.
The numbers may be even higher for the super wealthy. Studies conducted Campden Wealth and Paracelsus Recovery indicate that over 70 percent of #UHNW families struggle with an addicted member in their inner circle.
Extrapolating from those findings, it can be concluded that a large percentage of senior #WEF attendees, i.e. decision makers and panelists, are directly affected by an addictive disorder, either themselves or by a close family member.
Consider a few of last year’s most notable speakers: Donald Trump, President of the United State of America; Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor, Germany; Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy President of South Africa; Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, Paolo Gentiloni, Prime Minister of Italy; Jim Yong Kim, World Bank President; Peter Maurer, President, International Red Cross; Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization, and so many more.
We don’t know who is affected and who isn’t, and we aren’t sure why addiction hits the world’s movers and shakers in such a dramatic fashion. What we do know is that high-profile people sometimes turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with unrelenting stress and pressure.
We also know that many rich kids are exhausted by the weight of unbelievable expectations. Citing isolation from parents and greater achievement pressure, psychologist Suniya Luthar, PhD., writes that teens from wealthier American families are more likely to have higher rates of substance abuse, depression and anxiety.
It’s widely accepted that addiction is a chronic disease that changes the chemical makeup of the brain, and that it’s a chronic disease, not unlike diabetes or high blood pressure. So, should it concern us that a certain percentage of the world’s foremost business and political leaders are struggling with mental health disorders or addiction? Should we trust that their ideas, leadership, and decision-making are sound?
Addiction and Mental Health Woes
It’s difficult for many people in the middle-income brackets to grasp the fact that mental health problems and addiction are serious problems for the world’s movers and shakers, and that the lives of the ultra-wealthy are everything but trouble-free. The truth is that while wealthy men and women are buffered from many everyday concerns, they are human, and they share the same problems that plague the rest of us.
An article published in Forbes Magazine makes the point that many of the traits that make a person successful, including risk-taking, obsession, and drive, are also traits involved in substance abuse.
Wealthy people aren’t strangers to mental health disorders, either. A recent commentary in MarketWatch suggests that the rate of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders are skyrocketing in wealthy, high profile families and individuals, and may be double that affecting less wealthy counterparts. A mental health expert in Harvard Business Review comments that great wealth can be isolating. The extremely wealthy tend to distance themselves from other people, thus impacting overall sense of wellbeing.
The chronic disease of addiction can take down a powerful family. It can destroy a carefully cultivated reputation, or it can pop up to destroy a respected, centuries-old business. Economists and financial planners who work with ultra-high net worth families think this is a primary reason why great family wealth is often lost by the third generation.
Leaders who attend the World Economic Forum are highly respected and admired. They are well-positioned to serve as examples for individuals and communities battling problems with mental health and addiction. They are also primed to set the pace for countries who struggle to find solutions. What could be more important?
Who Helps the Decision Makers?
Although wealthy business leaders and celebrities have the resources to pay for the world’s finest treatment centers, many fail to seek help. Also, busy entrepreneurs and business people have a viable concern about who will guide the business while its leader is at treatment for a month or two.
Why? There are a number of factors that may keep the wealthy from admitting a problem exists, but
notes that fear of word leaking out about a family’s travails and the subsequent damage to family reputation is often at the top of the list. People suffer in silence, often struggling with intense guilt and shame that often accompanies addiction.
Created nearly five decades ago, the World Economic Forum (WEF) is a global organization formed to demonstrate global entrepreneurship while demonstrating moral and intellectual integrity and high standards of governance.
The Forum, founded by Professor Klaus Schwab, is shaped by the philosophy that organizations are accountable to all parts of society.