To Buy or Not To Buy

Why we overshop and how to stop.

The Web of Overconsumption Tangles Farther

Coupled with my recent post, the problem worsens.

Four recent reports from three continents-Europe, Africa, and Asia-point to the widening net of shopping addiction. Coupled with my recent post, "Compulsive Buying: A Passage to India?" there's more and more evidence that it poses a serious and worsening global problem.

In a piece in the Austria Times, alarmingly titled "Every fourth Austrian threatened by shopping addiction," Richard Wolf discusses a 2010 study of 1000 consumers. The study found that one in four Austrians goes on regular shopping sprees, with 19% classified as "clearly at risk" and 8% as "strongly at risk" of compulsive shopping. The most vulnerable group in the risk pool were young women, ages 14-24.

A Parisian research team who've published several scholarly articles about compulsive buying  interviewed 200 consecutive women entering Les Galeries Lafayette, the famous Parisian department store. Using standardized criteria to diagnose compulsive buying and a questionnaire especially designed to assess compulsive buying and its consequences, they identified a staggering 32.5% of the women as compulsive buyers.  Of course, since the sample consisted entirely  of "shoppers in the act of shopping,"  the prevalence is not likely to be as much in the population at large.

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From Women24, an online magazine in South Africa,  comes a piece by Corlia Erwee. Though she does not say where her data comes from, Erwee asserts that between 1% and 2% of the South African population, mostly women, are battling shopping addiction-a remarkable number given the still lopsided distribution of wealth in the ex-apartheid country.

Most surprising of all is Liu Rui's recent anecdotal piece in the Global Times, "Shopping madness set to infect China." While Rui relies on her personal knowledge of China rather than on peer-reviewed studies, she sees the boom in China's economy as a double-edged sword, with economic winners often "showing off the wealth" with egregious sprees and displays of luxuries.

 

April Lane Benson, Ph.D., is the author of To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop. She specializes in the treatment of compulsive buying disorder.

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