Compulsive spenders cannot control the urge to buy or to go on spending sprees, despite an overwhelming burden of debt or financial crisis. Compulsive shopping has little or nothing to do with the specific objects purchased. The shoppers continually act against their own better judgement, making purchases that they ignore or regret afterward. The causes are regarded as psychological, for some being a ritual assurance of love and self-worth, for others offering an escape from loneliness, despair and anxiety. The causes of the social "epidemic" and "cultural addiction" lies in the combination of an increasingly powerful consumer culture and easy credit.
About 6% of citizens in the USA are compulsive spenders. The problem is more common among women than men, but cuts across all income levels. An average of 40% of household income after mortgage or rent goes to pay for past purchases, as against 22% for the general population. About 53% of grocery and 47% of hardware-store purchases in the USA are spur-of-the-moment. Store-hopping is the favourite activity for 93% of American teenage girls. A survey of Britons also provided a segment of 6 percent compulsive shoppers, 90 percent of them women. Given the choice between getting a job promotion, a holiday, falling in love, losing six kilogram in weight or having Â£2,000 to spend on clothes, more of 1000 readers of a women's magazine said they would choose shopping above any of the others. 83 percent said they have shopped for a psychological boost and one quarter that they did it regularly.
In 1993, a person in the USA spent on average 6 hours a week shopping, compared with 40 minutes a week playing with the children.
Retail therapy lifts the spirits and provides an immediate high akin to taking cocaine. It is useful in treating the depression and hopelessness of cancer patients.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
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