News: The Insatiable Shopper

Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it can get you loneliness—and ugly shoes.

By Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, published November 5, 2013 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

 Lady w/ shopping bags in stillettos
Feeling down? Buy yourself a pair of shoes. Or get a new gadget. That should boost your mood—right?

Not necessarily. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, seeing possessions as a ticket to happiness and success increases feelings of isolation. But the reverse is even stronger: Loneliness fuels materialism, creating a sometimes vicious cycle. While a fixation on "stuff"—especially around the holiday season—is usually blamed on an overly consumerist culture, the study suggests that it's often a symptom (and a cause) of individual alienation, not cultural shallowness.

"Lonely people have a tendency to become more materialistic over time," says study author Rik Pieters, a professor of marketing at Tilburg University. Some, he notes, may use shopping as a coping mechanism that is driven by their fear of rejection: "A friend might say no, but an iPad never does."—Agata Blaszczak-Boxe

 Graph of black friday spending data from 2009-12

Source: National Retail Federation Photo by