Differential Diagnosis

Medical / Technology / Education feed

Psychology of panic buying

I've been fascinated by the psychology of panic buying and it is clearly an area for future research. It has an enormous impact on delivery infrastructure and I wonder if anyone has been tracking the data of the causes and the impact in the current fuel 'crisis'.

A systematic review from last year identified key core themes:

(1) individuals’ perception of the threat of a crisis and the scarcity of products
(2) fear of the unknown which is caused by emotions and uncertainty
(3) coping behaviour which is triggered by control deprivation
(4) social psychological factors which consider the purchasing behaviour and dynamics of an individual’s social network.

Yuen KF, Wang X, Ma F, Li KX. The psychological causes of panic buying following a health crisis. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2020 Jan;17(10):3513.

A more recent paper also suggested a decision model for panic buying.

Chua G, Yuen KF, Wang X, Wong YD. The Determinants of Panic Buying during COVID-19. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021 Jan;18(6):3247.

and highlights that:
  • "the negative effects of panic buying disproportionately fall on the disadvantaged"
  • "panic buying is more impactful on sufferers of mental health problems, substance-abusers or those in recovery, and people with reduced communication abilities"
  • "panic buying is also more detrimental to the elderly, the young undergoing education at a critical time, women caring for their family, those vulnerable to discrimination, homeless and people in the criminal justice system unable to self-isolate, undocumented migrants, workers on precarious contracts, and low-income people"

Source: pubmed.gov