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The links between anxiety purchases, deprivation and personality


One of the biggest FMCG UK retailers wanted to investigate the potential of using health product purchases to detect anxiety distributions across geo-spatial regions in England, in order to adjust their sales. Additionally, they were also interested in the relationship between anxiety and deprivation levels, as well as personality traits, across districts in England.


We analysed over 8 million geo-located health purchase logs spanning England, to examine the distribution of self-medication patterns for anxiety and its interplay with socio-economic factors. This work used a proxy for anxiety in the form of anxiety related purchases. Specifically, anxiety is estimated by first identifying the number of people who purchased product(s) labelled as anxiety related items. This measure was then normalized (via division with the overall number of distinct customers visiting the store over the period). Data that reflects deprivation (IMD score and its facets) and personality traits (based on a BBC survey) used in the study were gathered from open sources and were also represented on the district level.

Results indicated a negative correlation between anxiety-related purchases and deprivation, and a positive correlation with conscientiousness. Simply put, those most vulnerable to anxiety are statistically less likely to be self-medicating in order to treat symptoms.


This work highlighted the challenges faced by different demographics in treating anxiety symptoms - namely, we expected that the most deprived areas would exhibit higher anxiety-related purchases since it is well known in the literature that stress and anxiety are much higher in these areas than in affluent areas. However, these results imply that people who live in deprived areas may not have the access to anxiety-relief items - most likely because of the price of these products. This finding enabled our client to gain an even better understanding about how their pricing differs across the country and how it can be strategically adjusted.

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