Christmas stress over what to buy the mother-in-law might seem like it'll kill you, but it turns out shopping actually has a number of health benefits.
Shopaholics who like a bit of daily retail therapy may have the most to gain - studies have found frequent shopping is linked to a longer lifespan.
The research, looking at almost 2000 elderly Taiwanese, found those who shopped every day lived significantly longer than people who opened their wallets only once a week.
University of Auckland population health researcher Janine Wiles said the study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, was likely to hold true for most older New Zealanders as well.
Shopping trips kept the elderly busy and added a sense of purpose to their lives, she said.
"People who are shopping frequently are quite likely having lots of social contact, which is also strongly associated with well-being."
Massey University lecturer Juliana Mansvelt says her own research showed purchases, big or small, also shaped our identity.
"And shopping is not the same as a purchase - a number of older people talk about the pleasure they feel in finding bargains. They may ring up their children and say there's a special on butter this week."
Another benefit may come from the physical activity of walking from store to store, she said.
A study earlier this year found Aucklanders walked almost a kilometre during an average weekly shopping trip to a supermarket and pharmacy, even when driving to and between stores.
And the pace certainly picked up during the holiday season, with the average person clocking up more than 30km during their Christmas shopping, according to a British market research firm.
Dr Mansvelt considered the pleasure of treating yourself - at any age - an important part of life. But she said consumption for consumption's sake had many dangers, especially for those who found it the only way to connect with their community or family.
In interviews with the elderly, she had seen people go without or beyond their means to buy gifts for loved ones.
AVOID BUDGET BLOWOUT
Recent retail research has some unusual advice to prevent overspending this Christmas season:
Ditch the discount chains pumping out jingles and go high-end.
Researchers think you're more likely to splurge after hearing The Warehouse's "Where everyone gets a bargain" than Jaguar's luxury-promoting "Don't dream it. Drive it" tagline. Participants were thought to mentally rebel against obvious marketing such as jingles, and so unconsciously felt like behaving in the opposite way to the slogan suggestions, even when thrift was being encouraged.
Avoid shopping on warm days and be careful in overheated stores.
Israeli researchers have found people in increased temperatures were willing to pay more for the same item. The theory was people link physical warmth to emotional warmth, so feel more of a connection to a purchase when the mercury is up.
Wear high heels or stand on one leg before you make a decision.
US marketing professors found shoppers who had a physical experience of balance when shopping were more likely to buy medium-priced, medium-value options.
- Sunday Star Times