online shopping for coping with social distancing

As we adjust to quarantine as our new way of life, a just-released survey reveals the number one way many Americans are coping with social distancing is by online shopping. The survey, released by WalletHub, a personal finance website, shows that we’re also coping by cleaning our homes and learning something new.

WalletHub’s survey also asked respondents how social distancing makes them feel, what kind of protective clothing they wear and how often they go outside for fresh air. When it comes to online shopping, an estimated 36 million Americans engage in retail therapy as their top way of coping with the stress of social distancing, the survey shows.

So what is it about shopping that makes us feel less anxious when so many aspects of our lives are uncertain? It turns out that people ironically are more likely to make unnecessary purchases when they feel like they don’t have enough money, according to a recent paper by Harvard Business School assistant professor Ashley Whillans and her colleagues Grant Donnelly and Alice Lee-Yoon. How can we resist the urge to do just that? 

“Two simple strategies we can use to reduce our anxiety is to engage in a few minutes of mindfulness or reach out to a social connection,” says Whillans. “If we are feeling tempted to impulse spend, we should default ourselves to not being allowed to click ‘buy’ until we have taken a few deep breaths, reached out to a friend, and/or slept on the decision. Sometimes we shop because we need to buy something. But when we are purchasing something we don’t need; we need to take a moment and ask ourselves if we should be putting another expense on our credit card.” We know: Easier said than done.

Here are some other highlights of the survey:

  • Forty eight percent of Americans surveyed go outside at least once a day during quarantine.
  • Women are 40 percent more likely to feel anxious than men due to social distancing.
  • Thirty four percent of Americans are most looking forward to seeing family when this is behind us. 
  • Sixty percent of Americans are now wearing face masks due to COVID-19.
  • Almost 29 million Americans are using the extra time at home to learn something new.

WalletHub also released a report on the States Where Social Distancing Is Most Difficult. The report compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 13 key metrics including whether survey respondents have supportive relationships and how much consumers spent on social activities before COVID-19. New Jersey ranked 39th on the overall list and came in 2nd when it comes to the highest total annual consumer expenditures per household spent on social activities. Read the full results here.