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Materialistic People Experience More Stress

Update Date: Sep 25, 2013 01:58 PM EDT

When things go wrong, materialistic people go on shopping sprees.

New research suggests that materialistic people experience more stress from traumatic events like terrorist attacks, and are more likely to spend compulsively as a result.

Researchers say this may because possession-driven people tend to have lower self-esteem than other people.

"When the going gets tough, the materialistic go shopping," lead researcher Ayalla Ruvio, an assistant professor of marketing at Michigan State University, said in a news release. "And this compulsive and impulsive spending is likely to produce even greater stress and lower well-being. Essentially, materialism appears to make bad events even worse."

The latest study involved 309 participants who were asked to complete surveys. Researchers said that 139 people were from a southern Israeli town under extreme rocket attacks from Palestine for about six months in 2007, and 170 were from another Israeli town that was not under attack.

The findings revealed that highly materialistic people, who faced with a mortal threat, reported significantly higher levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms and impulsive and compulsive buying than their less materialistic counterparts.

For the second part of the study, Ruvio and her team examined the factors behind the effects of materialism observed in Israel. Researchers surveyed 855 U.S. residents and asked about their materialistic nature and fear of death. The findings revealed that materialistic people are more likely to try to relieve their fear of death through impulsive and out-of-control spending.

Researchers said that the findings suggest that materialism's intensifying effect on extreme stress may be driven by a global response to fear of death and by low self-esteem.

The findings are published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

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