Constant clothes shopping is tied to the ‘fear of missing out’ and social anxiety, research has found.
The desire to amass new garbs is a bid to cope with stress and anxiety connected to everyday pressures and a fear of being unhappy, according to a sustainability study supported by Glasgow Caledonian University.
Participants who took a ten-week break from shopping and swapped with friends, bought second hand or repaired garments recorded greater wellbeing.
Shoppers reported feeling as if they had “nothing to wear” despite having wardrobes, drawers and other storage cupboards overflowing with clothes.
Many used shopping to alleviate negative feelings, including a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, and a fear of social judgement.
The Fashion Detox Challenge was created in a bid to address overconsumption and reduce clothing waste, with diaries kept by 300 shoppers from around the world including Scotland, England, the US, Canada, and Australia.
It concluded shopping was a bid to fix neglected needs which were non-material.
Dr Emma Kidd, a sustainability researcher at Glasgow Caledonian University, who created the study, said: “The most striking thing about the diaries was how little the clothing items had to do with the act of consumption.
“People are hooked into patterns of overconsumption and the hook is often a fear of missing out or a fear of being unhappy or uncomfortable.
“It’s clear that amassing new clothes does not bring lasting happiness and satisfaction, so we need to sell the benefits of buying less.”
Figures show that more than 100 billion garments are sold every year but less than one per cent will be recycled into new clothing.
Consumers were faced with year-round sales, time-pressured discounts, pay-later schemes, Instagram influencers and aggressive digital marketing.
Some of the detox participants spoke of avoiding city centres, deleting fashion apps on their smartphones and blocking emails from clothing retailers as they tried to break their habit.
Dr Kidd added: “Time-limited sales and constant discounts carry an underlying message that the clothes you own will never be enough.
“If we’re serious about reducing the pace of clothing consumption, marketing like that needs to be confronted and addressed.
“More attention must also be given to the non-material fundamental human needs which consumers are neglecting.
“Viewed from this angle, sustainability is not an environmental problem, it is a human problem.”