Scientists Say: Shop So You Don't Drop. Discoblog Says: We Don't Buy It

By Patrick Morgan | April 7, 2011 4:03 pm

Sex. Dark chocolate. Nintendo’s Wii. It seems like most anything can be correlated with health and longevity nowadays. Now, some researchers want to add shopping to that list, after they saw a possible link between daily shopping and death age. Not everyone agrees, though, with this “shop so you don’t drop” mentality (surprise!).

In the study, published by the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, the researchers followed nearly 2,000, independently living, Taiwanese citizens who were at least 65 years old. The researchers gathered their shopping habits by looking at a 1999-2000 survey that evaluated how often these Taiwanese geriatrics shopped, and then they used national death registries to keep track of the study groups’ deaths until 2008. After correcting for age, gender, health, ethnicity, financial status, and other factors, the researchers discovered that daily shoppers were 27% less likely to kick the bucket than their less shop-happy peers (aka those who shopped only once a week or less). Oddly enough, the best shopping-related survival record goes to the men, who reduced their chances of dying by 28% by shopping; women who shopped daily cut their chances by 23%. The effect was slightly more pronounced in men than women.

While the study merely found a link between shopping and longevity, speculation abounds on the underlying reasons behind that correlation. As HealthDay (via U.S. News) reports:

“Frequent shopping among the elderly is related to increased walking—a low-impact physical activity that can improve heart health as well as balance and coordination,” said Kelly D. Horton, a research and policy specialist at the Center for Healthy Aging in Washington, D.C. “Shopping provides an enjoyable activity and helps older adults feel included in their community,” continued Horton. “In addition to physical activity, frequent shopping among older adults has also been related to improved nutrition intake.”

David Oliver, a professor at City University, London, agrees with Horton, telling the BBC that it “makes sense” because “shopping is going to involve physical activity, social interaction with other shoppers and because it’s quite a complex task it’s going to keep you mentally active.”

Considering that any health-promoting effects of shopping may well come actions like walking and socializing that are ancillary to the actual buying, it would make sense to do studies to try to isolate what factor is really at work. Would walking around the neighborhood solo improve health? Chatting with friends? Shopping online by yourself in a dark and crummy apartment? Show us the science!

What’s more, the assumption that shopping makes people healthy may have it all backwards: old people may go shopping more if they’re already healthy. That’s what Center on Aging at the University of Illinois professor S. Jay Olshansky told HealthDay, explaining that “this is a fun story, but I would not conclude that shopping itself increases longevity. The characteristics of individuals that enable them to shop are associated with greater longevity.” You wouldn’t be able to shop on your own every day if you didn’t already have good mobility and the mental skills to make decisions. So, for now at least, don’t bet on shopping your way to age 100—especially if you’re not a millionaire.

Related Content:
The Intersection: Bullish on Longevity
Gene Expression: The short life expectancy of longevity genes (?)
80beats: Female Baboons Find a Secret to Longevity: Close Girlfriends
Science Not Fiction: Before I Die, I Hope I Get Old

Image: flickr / paulwan8

MORE ABOUT: aging, elderly, exercise, health
  • billieurena

    Interesting article! I just now got Coupons of my Favorite Brands for free from printapons you should search for them online

  • Finnur Stefánsson

    Yes, I will do thank you <3

  • Dan

    I vote in favor of exercise and social interaction over shopping per se. My 83 year old mother (who is in better physical shape than I am) only shops about once a week. She also goes to her bridge club once a week, goes for hair repair once a week, attends church once on most weeks, and eats out with friends two or three times a week.

    We should all hope to be doing that well at that age!

  • Aleksandar Kuktin

    I agree about the possibility of a reverse correlation. They probably didn’t properly adjust for health.

  • b lynch black

    i don’t know about that… having to shop is *killing* me, and i’m nowhere retirement age yet.


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