We all hear about “first world problems” – problems that affluent people face that seem trivial to the large masses of people who are still struggling to meet ends meet. However, first-world problems aren’t trivial. They are real.
Why do first world problems matter? It is true that affluent people have their basic needs met – food, shelter, clothing and security. And yet, do they not suffer from depression? Do they not take their own lives at times? A list of countries by suicide rate features affluent countries such as South Korea, Japan and the United States in the top 40.
The psychologist Victor Frankl explained human suffering with a useful analogy.
“If a certain quantity of gas is pumped to an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human should and the conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the ‘size’ of human suffering is absolutely relative.”
In other words, comparison of the suffering faced by affluent and poor people merely based on its degree is meaningless. The problems of affluent people, despite their smaller magnitude, are just as real as any other form of suffering that humanity endures.