About half of the 1,850 participants said they never or hardly ever shopped, while 22 percent engaged in retail therapy two-to-four times a week and a minority -- 17 percent -- shopped every day.
Almost two-thirds of the respondents were under 75, and most reported having a healthy lifestyle. Nearly two-thirds, however, had at least two long-term health conditions.
People who shopped more frequently were more often younger (and probably therefore more able-bodied) and male. Oddly, though, they also smoked and drank more alcohol, despite also being in better overall health and getting out of the house to exercise or have dinner with friends more often.
The once-a-day shoppers were 27 percent less likely to die than the shop-a-phobics, even after adjusting for physical and mental impairment. Men who shopped once a day were 28 percent less likely to die and women 23 percent less likely than those who seldom ventured out to stores, according to the researchers.
And most of the participants were "financially self-sufficient," so a lack of shopping wasn't just a proxy of being poor.
The researchers, who declared no conflicts of interest, wrote that compared to formal exercise, shopping may be an easy way to get leisure-time physical activity. "Its informality makes it a more attractive alternative than more prescriptive approaches to healthy aging," they concluded.
But don't read too much into the findings, experts cautioned.
"This is a fun story, but I would not conclude that shopping itself increases longevity. The characteristics of individuals that enable them to shop are associated with greater longevity," said S. Jay Olshansky, professor of public health and a senior research scientist with the Center on Aging at the University of Illinois. "Shopping requires that you physically move from one place to another, be able to hand
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