Fear Of Dying Got You Down? Retail Therapy Can Help

By Ana-Marija Dolaskie — Dec 08, 2016
When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping -- at least when it comes to easing thoughts of one's eventual demise. A few studies can attest to the notion that retail therapy tends to improve the mood of those who are in constant worry of their own mortality. And we can think of a few other reasons, too. 

Here's a study we thoroughly approve of, peer reviews be damned: Retail therapy can do the mind good, especially when it comes to calming fears of your impending death. 

In a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Consumer Affairs, researchers analyzed two types of participants: those who described themselves as 'anti-consumers' and 'over-consumers.' Those generally opposed to overspending and over-consumption fell into the anti-consumers group, while over-consumers fell into the opposite category. 

So how exactly did they figure it out? First, the participants took a series of tests designed to measure their materialism or frugality. Researchers asked the participants how they felt about their own death, and what they believe would happen once they die. The other group — acting as the control group — was asked to describe their feelings about a typical trip to the dentist. Once finished, both groups were asked to describe their feelings toward spending money on various purchases. 




Journal of Consumer Affairs

The spending habits of those in the anti-consumers group, which generally resists consumption, were not significantly affected by thoughts of mortality, while the over-consumers made costlier choices after being forced to ponder death. The researchers explain that 'shopping' and over-consumption is one mechanism of coping with the fear of death.

Though 'therapy' may not be the best-suited word, 'retail therapy' has long been thought to provide some psychological rewards. Going through a heartbreak? Shopping can help! Seasonal affective disorder? Hit the mall! According to a study from the British Psychological Society, the pastime can provide some relaxation and temporary escape from problems, and may even ease difficult life transitions like purchasing new bedding after a breakup or divorce or shopping for new clothing for a new career move.

It's important to note that retail therapy can mask deeper issues of overspending, which can lead to debt and financial hardship. 

But when done in moderation, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. Or something like that.


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