A study of shopping addiction in the U.K., China, Spain, and the Czech Republic has found that it is mostly consistent across cultures – with some exceptions.
The study proposes that shopping addiction consists of two factors: compulsion and impulsivity. Compulsive shoppers recognize that their desire to purchase things is irrational; this recognition causes stress and anxiety, which they then resolve by making a purchase to make the stress go away. Impulsive shoppers, on the other hand, don’t feel stress or conflict regarding their desire to spend; they simply are unable to control their reactions to stimuli in a retail environment.
The study found that compulsive shopping doesn’t vary much across cultures; the statistics are largely the same in a Western consumerist culture such as the U.K. and a more collectivist society such as China. This suggests that compulsion is generally an internal, psychological phenomenon.
However, the study found cultural differences with regard to impulsive shopping, which is somewhat more prevalent in the European countries. Also, as compared to China, women in Europe (and especially the U.K.) were more likely to be affected than men. This suggests that the impulsivity dimension of shopping addiction is affected by external factors – the difference “could be due to the dissimilar cultural perceptions of indulgence in the social settings and women's different roles in society,” the researchers concluded.