The Web of Overconsumption Tangles Farther

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Four recent reports from three continents—Europe, Africa, and Asia—point to the widening net of shopping addiction. Coupled with my recent post, “Compulsive Buying: A Passage to India?” there’s more and more evidence that it poses a serious and worsening global problem.


In a piece in the Austria Times, alarmingly titled “Every fourth Austrian threatened by shopping addiction,” Richard Wolf discusses a 2010 study of one thousand consumers. The study found that one in four Austrians goes on regular shopping sprees, with 19 percent classified as “clearly at risk” and 8 percent as “strongly at risk” of compulsive shopping. The most vulnerable group in the risk pool were young women, ages fourteen to twenty-four.


A Parisian research team who’s published several scholarly articles about compulsive buying interviewed two hundred consecutive women entering Les Galeries Lafayette, the famous Parisian department store. Using standardized criteria to diagnose compulsive buying and a questionnaire especially designed to assess compulsive buying and its consequences, they identified a staggering 32.5 percent of the women as compulsive buyers. Of course, since the sample consisted entirely of “shoppers in the act of shopping,” the prevalence is not likely to be as much in the population at large.


From Women24, an online magazine in South Africa, comes a piece by Corlia Erwee. Though she does not say where her data comes from, Erwee asserts that between 1 percent and 2 percent of the South African population, mostly women, are battling shopping addiction—a remarkable number given the still lopsided distribution of wealth in the ex-apartheid country.


Most surprising of all is Liu Rui’s recent anecdotal piece in the Global Times, “Shopping madness set to infect China.” While Rui relies on her personal knowledge of China rather than on peer-reviewed studies, she sees the boom in China’s economy as a double-edged sword, with economic winners often “showing off the wealth” with egregious sprees and displays of luxuries.

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