: ‘Households with a member suffering from depression exhibit striking differences in shopping behavior’


Does depression affect your shopping habits?

Households where someone suffers from depression have “striking differences” from other households, a new working paper from research fellows at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Chicago concludes.

“They spend less overall, visit grocery stores less and convenience stores more frequently and spend a smaller share of their baskets on fresh produce and alcohol but a larger share on tobacco,” the researchers said. “They spend similar shares on unhealthy foods like cakes, candy, and salty snacks.” The paper was distributed Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“‘They spend similar shares on unhealthy foods like cakes, candy, and salty snacks.’”

Using a survey panel of 112,736 households that connects shopping behavior with individual medical information, the authors — Katherine Meckel from U.C. San Diego and Bradley Shapiro from the University of Chicago — say they showed a “robust” cross-sectional relationship between depression and shopping.

But there are factors that are difficult to account for in this data. For instance, a person may begin having symptoms of depression but not be sure or even aware that they have depression until well after their shopping and consumption behavior has already changed, Meckel and Shapiro said.

“There may be some self medication through the use of tobacco,” they wrote. Depression is classified as a mood disorder, and can be exhibited as sadness or even anger. Shopping, some mental-health and addiction experts say, may provide a temporary escape from such feelings.

Impulse shopping

Previous research published in 2017 in the Journal of Consumer Research on the relationship between consumerism and emotional health has suggested that impulse shoppers tend to buy certain products, but not the kind of designer splurges that are often portrayed in the media.

“Consumers who experience a loss of control are more likely to buy products that are more functional in nature, such as screwdrivers and dish detergent, because these are typically associated with problem solving, which may enhance people’s sense of control,” the researchers said.

“‘Consumers who experience a loss of control are more likely to buy products that are more functional.’”

In one study, participants were asked to recall a situation in which they felt a high sense of control after shopping. They bought more practical products, such as cooking ingredients and household cleaners. One theory: It may be that they are familiar household brands and simply remind them of their childhood.

The best way to avoid overspending due to depression, anxiety or other mental-health issues is to stick to shopping lists, and make buying as difficult as possible. That includes never saving your credit card information on Amazon

  or eBay

where it’s easy to buy those shoes or gadgets you will never use.

Also, don’t create an account with a store when shopping online, delete apps like Seamless and eat leftovers or cook at home instead; and get into a habit of leaving home earlier rather than using Uber
Unsubscribe from retailers’ email lists, use cash and turn off notifications on your phone offering deals.

In other words, automate your savings rather than your spending.

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