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Fact: Retail therapy doesn’t make us all feel much better

Published May 8, 2014


A spate of retail therapy is said to be good for boosting your mood, but spending money doesn’t always buy happiness – especially if you’re materialistic.

Research has found some shoppers, whether they buy material items or life experiences such as tickets to the theatre or holidays, are no happier following the purchase than they were before.

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This contradicts studies that found spending money on activities to enrich your life creates greater levels of happiness. The research was carried out by San Francisco State University.

“Everyone has been told if you spend your money on life experiences, it will make you happier, but we found that isn’t always the case,” said Ryan Howell, an associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State.

“Extremely material buyers, who represent about a third of the overall population, are sort of stuck. They’re not really happy with either purchase.”

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This is because when material buyers purchase life experiences, they are no happier because it is probably “out of line with their personality and values”.

But if they spend on material items, they are not better off either, because others may criticise or look down on their choices.

Although the link between experiential purchases and happiness has been well demonstrated, Howell said few studies examined the types of people who experience no benefits. To do so, he and his colleagues surveyed shoppers to find out if there were any factors that limited the happiness boost from experiential purchases.

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The researchers found that those who tend to spend money on material items reported no happiness boost from experiential purchases.

“The results show it is not correct to say to everyone, ‘If you spend money on life experiences you’ll be happier,’ because you need to take into account the values of the buyer,” said lead author Jia Wei Zhang. – Daily Mail

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