Sipping Dom Perignon in their mountain retreats and gobbling oysters on their private jets, the children of the rich appear to have no cares in the world. But looks can be deceiving, says Labour peer David Puttnam, who claims they may be ‘as disadvantaged’ as the very poorest in society. The film producer has warned of a different type of deprivation, one that ‘goes right to the top’ – mental wellbeing.
‘It’s a mistake to think that deprivation exists only with the very poorest in society. ‘Many people will find this a totally counter-intuitive “first world” problem – but check with the principals of many of our most expensive schools and most desirable universities, and you will hear the same story: mental wellbeing is a significant and growing problem.’
American psychologist professor Suniya Luthar found that children whose parents earn over £100,000 are twice as likely to have mental health problems than their poorer counterparts.
This may be due to social pressure to succeed, or, in the case of the super-rich, a lack of direction that comes from being able to do whatever they want. And Puttnam reckoned that the increasing number social media pictures of rich kids flaunting their lifestyles can be explained by the youngsters’ lack of empathy which may stem from a lack of time with their busy or uninterested parents.
Lord Puttnam, who chairs the chairs Cultural Learning Alliance which tackles deprivation through cultural enrichment, believes art can also help the children of the top 0.1 per cent, who earn more than £600,000 per year.
‘It is very difficult for people who have unlimited wealth to help their kids to lead moderated and engaged lives,’ Puttnam said. ‘You have 18 to 22-year-olds whose idea of life is… the next party.’