"The widespread opinion that most compulsive buyers are women may be wrong," the researchers wrote in their paper. Senior author Lorrin Koran, MD, emeritus professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences, said the study is the first large, nationwide effort to assess the prevalence of the disorder. The study found that more than one in 20 adults in the United States suffers from the condition.
People who have compulsive buying disorder - sometimes called compulsive shopping disorder - are often struck with an irresistible, intrusive and often senseless impulse to buy. It is common for sufferers to go on frequent shopping binges and to accumulate large quantities of unnecessary, unwanted items. Sufferers often rack up thousands of dollars in debt and lie to their loved ones about their purchases. The consequences can be bankruptcy, divorce, embezzlement and even suicide attempts.
Koran emphasized that this type of shopping and buying is not the same as occasional impulse buying, which many people engage in.
The researchers found that six percent of women and 5.5 percent of men had symptoms consistent with compulsive buying disorder. The gender-adjusted prevalence rate was 5.8 percent.
Koran said the fact that men and women have similar rates of compulsive shopping tendencies was surprising. "The difference that we observed between the prevalence in women and men is quite small and contrasts with the marked difference reported in clinical trials, in which women constituted 80 to 95 percent of the participants," the authors noted.
The researchers also discovered interesting tidbits about compulsive buyers. Compared with other respondents, compulsive buyers were younger and more likely to have reported incomes under $50,000. In addition, more of their credit cards were within a few hundred dollars of the credit limit, and compulsive buyers were more than four times as likely as other respondents to make only the minimum payment on credit card balances.
MEDICA.de; Source: Stanford University Medical Center