Shopping Is Good For You (Because It Hides The Pain)

It's not surprising that the recession could be leading to a rise in depression. What's a little more unusual is this trick for mental acuity and better health: shopping.

Two stories in the BBC today appear to be natural companions. One says antidepressant prescriptions are up 40% in Britain in the last four years. Some experts think this is due to more people seeking help for depression as it loses the stigma, but others blame tough economic times. Says Dr. Clare Gerada, head of the Royal College of GPs,

Of course, in times of economic problems we would expect mental health problems to worsen — and GPs are seeing more people coming in with debts racking up, or who have lost their job and are cancelling their holidays.

They feel guilty that they can't provide for their family and these things can often act as a trigger for depression.


Of course, having less money also reduces your ability to shop. Which brings us to the next story: according a study conducted in Taiwan, shopping can be good for you. More specifically, senior citizens who regularly went shopping live longer than those who didn't, even after controlling for things like physical and mental health conditions. The study authors point out that shopping gets people physically active, but is easier for people to stick to than an exercise routine. And professor of medicine David Oliver told the BBC,

Shopping is going to involve physical activity, social interaction with other shoppers and because it's quite a complex task it's going to keep you mentally active. It makes sense that it would be a predictor of better physical and psychological well-being.

So on the flipside, might a decline in shopping lead to widespread declines in physical and mental health? It's hard to tell from just one study, but it is interesting that shopping, traditionally decried in these recessionary times as a quick and financially dangerous fix for a bad mood, could actually have lasting benefits. Of course, retail therapy is no match for therapy therapy, which the British government is increasing access to in response to reports of recession-related mental health problems. But here in the US, where getting help often involves exorbitant fees, going to the mall might actually be cheaper.

Money Woes 'Linked To Rise In Depression' [BBC]
Shopping 'May Improve Health' [BBC]

Image via Mike Flippo/



Maybe I missed it, but I don't think the article mentioned if people who were more likely to shop had more money in general. If you have less money and less time/opportunity to shop, maybe you're more stressed about other things in general? I'm sensing a little correlation/causation disconnect here.