Materialistic People Respond to Severe Stress With Compulsive Shopping

Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 10.29.03 AMA new cross-cultural study finds interesting links between materialism, response to external threats, fear of death and compulsive shopping. It found that highly materialistic, possession-oriented people tend to experience greater fear when faced with stress and threats to their lives; and engage in compulsive shopping in response, compared with less materialist people.

The study was reported in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science and summarized in Science Daily, According to lead researcher Ayalla Ruvio of the University of Michigan, “When the going gets tough, the materialistic go shopping, And this compulsive and impulsive spending is likely to produce even greater stress and lower well-being. Essentially, materialism appears to make bad events even worse.”

The study was conducted with participants from Israel and the U.S. The findings revealed that highly materialistic people who faced or perceived a mortal threat, reported significantly higher levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms and impulsive and compulsive buying than their less materialistic counterparts. “The relationship between materialism and stress may be more harmful than commonly thought,” Ruvio said.

The research explored the roots of these responses from the more materialistic individuals through a survey of 855 people in the U.S. The survey examined their attitudes about materialism and their fear of death. Researchers found that the more materialistic individuals are more likely to try to relieve their fear of death through impulsive and out-of-control spending. Click here for more description of the Israeli and U.S. parts of the study.