New figures show
MoneySuperMarket today reveals the findings of a ground-breaking neurological study into the psychology of spending that reveals how sad, stressed or bored shoppers are nearly 15 per cent more likely to overspend than those who are happy.
The link between stress and physical health is well documented, but what hasn’t been appreciated until now is the connection between emotional wellbeing and consumer behaviour – and the role this plays in our lives.
The month-long study, commissioned by the price comparison website and conducted by consumer behavior experts Mindlab, combined state-of-the-art “choice architecture” techniques with interviews and quantitative data to assess the spending attitudes of 2,500 Britons, and produce the nation’s first-ever Buying Mood Index – mapping patterns of behaviour to an individual’s state of mind.
A total of 500 participants’ spending habits were analysed under four heightened states of emotion: boredom, stress, happiness and sadness, as well as a control group classified as “neutral”. Crucially, the researchers monitored how much the five groups were willing to pay for the same goods, such as clothes, food and holidays. Those who were described as sad, stressed or bored were revealed to be 14 per cent more likely to overspend than their happy or neutral counterparts – and to be 4 per cent more impulsive. Stress was found to be the most expensive emotion overall – responsible for a near 10 per cent increase in likelihood of overspending.
The group’s reactions to a range of products and services were tested. Of particular interest was the role of emotion in driving beauty purchases, with female participants 40 per cent more likely to spend on products if they were feeling sad – and boredom driving both a 13 per cent increase in impulse beauty purchases by women and 6 per cent by men.
Impulsivity indexed especially highly among the stressed and bored groups. The research group as a whole was found to be 8 per cent more likely to spend on travel simply through boredom; while even purchases of functional goods were 7 per cent higher among those classified as stressed. Perhaps less surprisingly, sadness was found to drive a 12 per cent increase in travel-related purchases, while expected spending on food was 15 per cent higher among the stressed – proving the link with “comfort eating”.
The study found that some people are inherently more prone to emotional spending than others. Just as the traditional Body Mass Index is used to measure whether you’re a healthy weight, participants were scored between 18.5 and 40, depending on their level of spending. Participants who scored between 18.5 and 24.9 fell into a ‘healthy range’, meaning their shopping habits aren’t overly affected by their mood.