A Study of Stress and Changes in Consumer Behavior

EXTENDED ABSTRACT - Over the past fifty years or so, the concept of Astress@ has been receiving increasing attention in the psychological and medical fields, and it is currently Aone of the most prolific enterprises in the behavioral and social sciences@ (Cohen 1988, p.7). Stress has been defined in a variety of ways, but most researchers refer to it as a condition resulting from environmental or social demands placed upon the person which exceed his or her ability to adapt to a situation (e.g., Caplan 1961; Lazarus 1966). Although this variable has not received as much attention in consumer research, several investigators have suggested that stress may be a key explanatory factor, helping us understand a wide variety of consumption-related orientations (e.g., Andreasen 1984; Hirschman 1992; O’Guinn and Faber 1989).



Citation:

George P. Moschis, Euehun Lee, and Anil Mathur (2005) ,"A Study of Stress and Changes in Consumer Behavior", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, eds. Yong-Uon Ha and Youjae Yi, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 330.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 2005      Page 330

A STUDY OF STRESS AND CHANGES IN CONSUMER BEHAVIOR

George P. Moschis, Georgia State University, U.S.A.

Euehun Lee, Information and Communications University, Seoul, Korea

Anil Mathur, Hofstra University, U.S.A.

EXTENDED ABSTRACT -

Over the past fifty years or so, the concept of "stress" has been receiving increasing attention in the psychological and medical fields, and it is currently "one of the most prolific enterprises in the behavioral and social sciences" (Cohen 1988, p.7). Stress has been defined in a variety of ways, but most researchers refer to it as a condition resulting from environmental or social demands placed upon the person which exceed his or her ability to adapt to a situation (e.g., Caplan 1961; Lazarus 1966). Although this variable has not received as much attention in consumer research, several investigators have suggested that stress may be a key explanatory factor, helping us understand a wide variety of consumption-related orientations (e.g., Andreasen 1984; Hirschman 1992; O’Guinn and Faber 1989).

The purpose of this research is to present the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of stress research, interpret consumer research in the context of the stress perspective, and present the results of a large-scale study designed to examine and understand the cause(s) of stress and its consequences on selected aspects of consumer behavior.

Theoretical Perspectives

There is a widely held view that life events create psychological instability and that stress is a signal that the organism is struggling to restore stability and equilibrium (Pearlin 1982). Most people do not remain passive when faced with forces that adversely affect them, but they actively react by employing a variety of coping strategies. Coping refers to those actions and thoughts that enable individuals to handle difficult situations (Murrell et al. 1988).

What aspects of consumer behavior reflect efforts on the part of consumers to handle stress? Unfortunately, little systematic research can be found to answer this question at the present time. However, previous researchers have explicitly or implicitly suggested a wide variety of consumer behavior which may serve as a coping mechanism. Changes in consumer behavior may not be only the outcome of stress. Many life events mark transitions into new roles (e.g., spousal, parenthood). Consumers typically re-evaluate their consumption needs at several transition points in their lives, and many changes in consumer behavior are the result of these assessments.

In order to better understand the nature of the relationship between life events and consumption-coping behaviors, it is essential to uncover the underlying mechanisms through which these relationships operate. We suggest that life events are stressful and result in a direct demand for readjustment via consumption (i.e., consumption-coping behaviors). These events, that reflect acute stress, also affect the older person’s consumer behavior indirectly via their exacerbation of role strains (chronic stress).

Methods and Results

Eight hundred and fifty nine adult consumers (average age 71.2, 65.4% males) were used in the study. The questionnaire included questions used to measure acute stress (measured by asking respondents to indicate whether they had personally experienced 17 events and counting the number of events experienced during the previous 12 months to construct a 0-to 17 point index), chronic stress (measured by using five statements that apply to various role settings and counting the positive responses for the previous 12 months), as well as consumption-coping behaviors (measured by asking the respondents to indicate if they had engaged in any of the 13 activities that have been suggested to be means of coping with stress and counting the positive responses for the previous 12 months).

A series of regression analyses were carried out to assess the direct and indirect effects of life events on consumption coping behaviors, as well as to assess the role of chronic stress as a mediator between life events and consumption coping behaviors. The results indicate that life events had a strong and direct effect on consumption coping behaviors. Life events also had a positive effect on anticipated events and chronic stress. Chronic stress, in turn, had a direct effect on consumption coping behaviors. However, anticipated events did not significantly impact consumption coping behaviors.

We also examined the mediating effects of chronic stress. This test provided evidence of partial mediation as suggested by the model. Also, the two types of stress work additively, a finding which is consistent with previous psychological studies (e.g., Norris and Uhl 1993; Wheaton 1990).

The present research suggests that stress might be a viable approach to the study of consumer behavior. The relationship between life events and consumption-coping behaviors is very strong. Furthermore, chronic stress consistently shows a significant positive impact on consumption-coping behaviors and it partially mediates the effects of life events. The findings on the relative importance of acute versus chronic stress as predictors of behavioral outcomes among older adults are consistent with findings of psychological studies. Several directions for future research are also suggested.

----------------------------------------

Authors

George P. Moschis, Georgia State University, U.S.A.
Euehun Lee, Information and Communications University, Seoul, Korea
Anil Mathur, Hofstra University, U.S.A.



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6 | 2005



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