Depression and Shopping Behavior

30 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2021

See all articles by Katherine Meckel

Katherine Meckel

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Bradley Shapiro

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 8, 2021


Using a large survey panel that connects household shopping behavior with individual health information, this paper documents correlations between self reported depression and the size and composition of shopping baskets. First, we find that roughly 16% of individuals report suffering from depression and over 30% of households have at least one member who reports suffering from depression. Households with a member suffering from depression exhibit striking differences in shopping behavior: they spend less overall, visit grocery stores less and convenience stores more frequently and spend a smaller share of their baskets on fresh produce and alcohol but a larger share on tobacco. They spend similar shares on unhealthy foods like cakes, candy, and salty snacks. These cross-sectional correlations hold within counties, suggesting that they are not driven by region specific demographics or preferences that are incidentally correlated with depression status. They also hold when considering only single-member households. However, we rule out large differences in shopping behavior within households as they change depression status. Further, using the take-up of antidepressants as an event, we document little change in shopping in response to treatment. With our results, we discuss takeaways for the economic impact of depression and for decision modeling.

Funding Information: None to declare.

Declaration of Interests: None to declare.

Ethics Approval Statement: There were no human subjects in this research and the project was exempted from IRB. There was no PII or PHI in the data. It was conducted using historical survey data from a marketing research company (IRI Worldwide).

JEL Classification: I1, I10, I12, M31

Suggested Citation

Meckel, Katherine and Shapiro, Bradley, Depression and Shopping Behavior (November 8, 2021). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2021-131, November 2021, Available at SSRN: or

Katherine Meckel

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

Bradley Shapiro (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States


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