We all know shopping, in the short term, makes us happier. There’s no need for science to jabber about elevated serotonin levels after winning a pair of Louis Vuitton pumps on eBay. When feeling down, shopping throws a blanket over our negative emotions.
Recent science, though, warns us from this ‘medicinal’ use of shopping. The Journal of Consumer Research recently published a paper illuminating the vicious connection between loneliness, isolation and shopping. The research team spent 6 years and interviewed over 2,500 subjects, asking about self-esteem and shopping habits. The distillation of their toil is this: over time, shopping to fight loneliness actually increases loneliness over time.
So put down the handbag and walk away.
Rik Pieters, the study’s author, explains loneliness often arises when our need for human interaction is stunted. Shopping in such a state can bypass the loneliness circuit, so to speak, providing the temporary fix we know so well. The problem with this approach is that habitual, compulsive shopping makes one increasingly materialistic. In this state of increased materialism, subjects tended to judge their self worth by the value of the goods they purchase and own. Such people often become easily irritated and jealous by others’ possessions, forcing them to again turn to shopping to assuage their ache.
Like those who turn to alcohol to fight isolation, shopaholics eventually need to buy more and more goods to fight their feelings of loneliness. Shopping as therapy also takes one’s energies from building more important interpersonal relationships, further isolating the already lonely shopper.
Again, we don’t need science to tell us lasting happiness comes from a true connection to ourselves and others. Given to feelings of isolation, its best to put away the credit card and take a walk in the park. You never know who you’ll meet when you least expect it.