Women using shopping as an escape mechanism to cope with unpleasant feelings have cause for concern as researchers have linked shopping addiction to symptoms of depression.
“Modern technology has made shopping extremely accessible and convenient, with the potential of sending problematic shopping into overdrive - especially along with sociocultural factors such as social media, credit cards and advanced marketing,” said first author Cecilie Schou Andreassen, of Department of Psychosocial Science at University of Bergen in Norway.
The large study shows some clear tendencies as to which people develop a shopping dependency, researchers said.
“Addictive shopping clearly occurs more regularly amongst certain demographic groups,” Andreassen said.
“It is more predominant in women, and is typically initiated in late adolescence and emerging adulthood, and it appears to decrease with age,” she said.
The research also shows that shopping addiction is related to key personality traits.
“Our research indicates that people who score high on extroversion and neuroticism are more at risk of developing shopping addiction,” said Andreassen.
“Extroverts, typically being social and sensation seeking, may be using shopping to express their individuality or enhance their social status and personal attractiveness,” said Andreassen.
“Neurotic people, who typically are anxious, depressive, and self-conscious, may use shopping as a means of reducing their negative feelings,” she said.
People who are conscientious, agreeable, and who like new and intellectual stimuli are less at risk from shopping addiction, researchers said.
These typically have good self-control, avoid the kind of conflicts that problematic shopping often results in, and may regard shopping as a conventional activity at odds with their often unconventional values.
“We have also found that shopping addiction is related to symptoms of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, and shopping may function as an escape mechanism for, or coping with, unpleasant feelings - although shopping addiction may also lead to such symptoms,” Andreassen said.
The study shows that the symptoms of shopping addiction are closely related to the symptoms of drug addiction, alcoholism, and other substance addictions.
The researchers developed The Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale, which is a new and unique method to measure shopping addiction.
The new method is based on core addiction elements recognised as diagnostic criteria for other addictions, and is the first of its kind worldwide.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.