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Shopping online can be a sign of a mental disorder


Experts discover connection between online shopping and psychological problems
Can our online banking transactions be used to predict psychological health disorders? Researchers from an influential charity have used online banking data to test the relationship between psychological illnesses and personal financial crises.

The experts at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found that there is a connection between psychological and financial wellbeing. The charity's scientists have summarized the results of their research into mental disorders and money problems in one report.

Researchers are calling for the development of apps to monitor online banking
Most people are probably familiar with so-called fitness trackers. Among other things, these devices count our steps and should motivate more activity, the scientists explain. Money and Mental Health Policy Institute employees believe that apps could also be developed that monitor exactly how much money we spend and when. Such devices could send out warning signals if a pathological pattern can be identified.

Mentally ill people can make difficult financial decisions with difficulty
Around a quarter of the UK population will experience a psychiatric problem in their lifetime and there are clear correlations between psychological and financial well-being, the experts say. More than nine in ten people with mental health problems say they spend too much money or have trouble making sensible financial decisions. The scientists came to this conclusion after a survey of around 5,500 people.

Unreasonable pattern of spending discovered in many mentally ill
Almost three quarters of those affected said that they are stacking unpaid bills, the doctors report. Over half of the participants were even forced to take out loans. Many people with mental health problems report an unreasonable pattern of expenses, the authors add. These include, for example, additional expenses during manic episodes and the purchase of unaffordable items for yourself or other people. For example, those affected want their social status or self-esteem to be increased.

The effects of money and mental health create a vicious cycle
Poor mental health leads to poor budgeting and decision-making, while the resulting financial hardship makes the psychological situation worse, the doctors explain. So a kind of vicious circle arises.

Maintaining financial stability is important for mental health
One of the respondents said that if he feels uncomfortable, he loses a sense of reality, so to speak. The person affected then practically lives the life of another person. The money spent also appears to belong to another person, the experts explain. Another subject said that paying bills and maintaining financial stability was key to preventing his mental health from deteriorating.

Apps could prevent the risk of a financial crisis occurring among those affected
Tools should be developed that are able to analyze large amounts of banking transactions. This could lead to spending monitoring applications being able to recognize certain patterns, the authors say. These can then be used to ensure that advice and support prevent the risk of a financial crisis arising for those affected.

Further research with larger amounts of data is urgently needed
The charity is asking for more detailed analysis of the banking data of 50,000 volunteers, who will provide their transaction data in addition to their biographical and demographic information for two to three years. This would allow the researchers to analyze the financial situation of the different groups more closely. The so-called 100,000 genome project could also be used to identify links between genetic mutations and diseases, the specialists explain.

Apps should have full access to consumer online banking data
To monitor spending, an app should have access to consumers' online banking data, the researchers explain. Personal engagement with such an app is crucial. When people sign up for this service, they shouldn't look at the analysis as some kind of privacy invasion, but as a means of detecting behavioral problems. So far, British banks have not allowed their customers to share their data with third parties. (as)

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