Marketing Letters

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 45–60 | Cite as

Coping with a natural disaster: Losses, emotions, and impulsive and compulsive buying

  • Julie Z. Sneath
  • Russell Lacey
  • Pamela A. Kennett-Hensel


Using data collected from 427 US Gulf Coast residents who were impacted by Hurricane Katrina, a structural model based on life event theory is proposed and empirically tested. Results show that perceived lack of control and loss of possessions contribute directly to stress, and event-induced stress impacts depression. Depressive states, in turn, lead to impulsive and compulsive buying behaviors. Multi-group analysis reveals that income moderates the relationship between depression and compulsive buying, but age, gender, and insurance coverage do not. The depression–impulsive buying relationship is not moderated by any of these factors. Disaster victims engage in distinct purchasing behaviors to manage emotional states, recoup losses, and restore their sense of self. In the aftermath of a traumatic event, impulsive buying appears to be a rational and beneficial behavior; compulsive buying does not. The results heed valuable ethical and social responsibility implications to marketers and public policy makers.


Life event theory Depression Coping Impulsive buying Compulsive buying 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie Z. Sneath
    • 1
  • Russell Lacey
    • 2
  • Pamela A. Kennett-Hensel
    • 2
  1. 1.University of South AlabamaMobileUSA
  2. 2.University of New OrleansNew OrleansUSA

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