Status Anxiety: The Number One Affliction of The Middle Class

Adebayo Adeniran
4 min readNov 18, 2021

And this global phenomenon is much more common place than we appreciate

Obi onyeador via Unsplash

Prior to the events of March 2020, when the world fell completely off its axis, It is fair to state that for millions of middle class employees around the globe, status anxiety was a major cause of sleepless nights, depression and mental health problems.

So what is status anxiety and how did this term make its way into our lives?

We have British-Swiss philosopher — Alain de Botton — to blame or thank for this; according to him, it can be explained as the following:

Status Anxiety is a 21st-century phenomenon which is a result of capitalism, democracy, and an ostensibly egalitarian society, and is prevalent in countries where an inequality in income is evident. Status Anxiety can be defined as the constant tension or fear of being perceived as “unsuccessful” by the society in materialistic terms. Today, every individual constantly tries to outsmart the others to climb up the social ladder. The effects of status anxiety can be impulse buying, status consumption etc. Meritocracy is a primary cause of status anxiety. Meritocracy is a society that believes that only the talented and the meritorious will end up at the top of the social ladder. Snobbery, envy, lovelessness are some other causes of status anxiety

And at this point I must confess to being chronically affected by status anxiety. In my article titled: “ I was once the world’s greatest workaholic: these days, getting siestas is all that matters”, spoke of my time in employment society.

But what I failed to capture in that article was the degree to which my life was disfigured by status anxiety; the higher I climbed, the more anxious I felt about my position and the more envious I felt of contemporaries, who earned more and seemed to enjoy the trappings of success.


In an organization where senior managers were being paid bonuses in the region of…



Adebayo Adeniran

A lifelong bibliophile, who seeks to unleash his energy on as many subjects as possible