Self-improvement represents a $10 billion per year industry in the U.S. alone. In addition to high revenues, self-help also has a high recidivism rate, with the most likely purchaser of a self-help book being the same person who purchased one already in the last 18 months. This begs the question of how much good these self-help books and seminars are doing for consumers. If they are so effective at solving our problems, why do they usually result in a continuing stream of self-help purchases?
Self-help books are frequently followed by a train of formulaic subsequent manuals for happiness, weight loss, success, money, or spirituality by the very same authors, fueling the 6.1% average annual growth rate projected by Marketdata Enterprise Inc. The New Statesman’s Barbara Gunnell forecasts a secure future for positive psychology, noting that “never has an age been so certain that it deserves not just freedom from distress, but positive well-being” and that “the worried well with a belief in their right to feel good are a lucrative market.” Furthermore, the credentials of self-help authors are uneven, and research has documented the noticeable absence of empirical evidence supporting the advice so copiously pumped out to the masses.