Feeling overwhelmed? Stressed about work, a family illness or election season? It turns out that worry and anxiety can have an impact on your wallet.
“Stress leads consumers to favor saving money,” says Kristina Durante, an associate professor of marketing at Rutgers Business School who researches the effect of hormones and consumer behavior. Although stressed consumers want to save, when faced with a spending decision, stressed consumers will pay for necessities they think will help restore control rather than splurge on non-necessities.
In a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research in October, Durante and Juliano Laran at University of Miami find that stress leads consumers to save money in general but spend strategically on products they believe are essential.
In several experiments, Durante and Laran created stressful situations for participants, including leading them to believe they would give presentations in front of judges and directing others to write about a stressful time in their lives. Faced with the stress alone, most say they wanted to save more money.
Durante says the body reacts to stressful challenges with an increase in the hormone cortisol, which leads us to focus our attention toward the threat so that we can attempt to overcome it or alleviate it. “People lock down and enter survival mode and protect resources as a means to ensure survival,” she says.
When researchers tasked stressed participants with making a decision about how to spend up to $250 – one group on everyday products and necessary household goods, the other on non-necessities including entertainment goods – the group buying items deemed necessary spent more money. Neither group spent all of the $250.
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