London - It is news to strike fear into the hearts of those who open the family credit card bills each month.

A study has found that retail therapy – far from being empty and superficial way to get over a bad mood – can be an “effective way to minimise sadness”.

Researchers found buying something was up to 40 times more effective at giving people a sense of control over their mood and they were three times happier than those who window shopped.

Previous studies have shown that people were less likely to experience sadness while shopping. However, the US researchers said that until now it had remained unclear whether it conveys benefits beyond those produced merely by distraction or the passage of time.

The University of Michigan team said: “Our work suggests that making shopping choices can help to restore a sense of personal control over one’s environment and reduce sadness.

“Retail therapy – shopping that is motivated by distress – is often said to be ineffective, wasteful and a dark side of consumer behaviour, but we propose that it has been viewed too negatively and shopping may be an effective way to minimise sadness.” - Daily Mail