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Shop 'Til You Drop: You May Feel Better

Survey finds many women use spending sprees to boost emotional well-being in hard times

THURSDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- When dealing with financial worries, some women may actually overspend to try to cheer themselves up, a British survey shows.

The poll of 700 women found that 79 percent said they'd go on a shopping spree to give themselves an emotional boost. About 40 percent listed "depression" and 60 percent listed "feeling a bit low" as reasons to go shopping and overspend. Many of the women said shopping has the power to make them feel better.

"This type of spending, or compensatory consumption, serves as a way of regulating intense emotions," survey author Professor Karen Pine, of the University of Hertfordshire, said in a university news release.

Pine explained that the ability to regulate emotions is crucial for mental and physical well-being, and people find a number of ways to do this, including drugs and alcohol. Shopping is a method widely used by women.

"If shopping is an emotional habit for women, they may feel the need to keep spending despite the economic downturn. Or, perhaps worse still, if they can't spend, we might see an increase in mental health problems such as anxiety and depression," Pine said.

But the survey found that shopping isn't an emotional balm for all women. About 25 percent of survey respondents said they suffered feelings of regret, guilt or shame after buying something in the week prior to the survey, and 70 percent had worried about money during that time.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers tips on how to cope with stress.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Hertfordshire, news release, May 21, 2009

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