Psychology and Inflation

Have you noticed that you are buying more staple products than before? This probably reminds you of the run on toilette paper seen during the pandemic. There were many funny memes that came out of that craze. There is a known fact that Inflation can affect your mental health/coping as much as it affects your wallet. Inflation Psychology is a state of mind that leads consumers to hasten spending more quickly due to the belief that the prices will rise or the product will no longer be in stock. Inflation is viewed as a chronic psychological stressor.

Alarming inflation
Alarming Inflation

Inflation is a function of the supply and demand of money. There is loss aversion where you’re worried that your money will devalue; reliance on emotions for decision-making; placing a higher value on scarce items; having greater willingness to pay using a credit card instead of cash. We also make poorer decisions when we are in a state of stress.

As you notice cost of living increases, soaring gas prices (Just yesterday we saw Supreme gas price of $4.89), and the cost of grocery increases you can’t help but recognize the increased level of anxiety. Other ramifications of this are mental strain and stress limiting coping.  This affects us in many ways. For example, buying low cost foods, usually “comfort foods” gives us an expanding waist size as we eat due to boredom, stress, anxiety and any negative emotion. Research shows that Americans have gained an average of 25 lbs during the pandemic. Also seen is a weight loss of 26 lbs. These numbers are impacted by each person’s coping skills. Some people when experiencing a negative emotion tend to either eat more while others eat less creating the inequality in weight gain and loss. Many of us find ourselves struggling with trying to lose the now popularly termed “The Pandemic 20”.

Cumulative stress is another important factor. In general, people can handle one or two stressors but when this number increments to much higher numbers, a person’s coping skills can become taxed. There is a psychological impact to inflation. This has also influenced rates of domestic violence and marital discord as irritability and uncertainty reign supreme. It can feel like the ground is shifting beneath you. When you don’t feel you’re on solid ground you don’t feel safe. When you don’t feel safe you focus on the present to try to manage it but with low frustration tolerance and anxiety, managing becomes even harder. All of these dampens our sense of satisfaction and undermine our emotional wellbeing. This is also fueled by relationship strain and a decrease in social support as we were hurled into a virtual culture where the rules were different. This was especially difficult for those in the later years of life having to learn and adjust to video conferencing to see family and friends as well as other technological changes that the pandemic brought to the forefront.

The fear of the future is hitting young people especially hard. They look at the cost of college, undertaking a mountain of debt with no guarantees that they will find a job in their chosen field. They also question whether their possible salary would be sufficient to pay back their student loans while maintaining costs of things like food, rent, electric etc. More adult children are moving back home with their parents to save money or to help each other out with expenses.

During the pandemic, research by the American Psychological Association (APA) conducted by The Harris Poll highlighted the top sources of stress as:

  • The rise of the cost of everyday items (inflation) This encompasses gas, groceries and electric etc.)
  • This was followed by supply chain issues. We are seeing a lack of supply for a multitude of items increasing the feeling of .
  • Next is global uncertainty.
  • Then the Russian invasion of Ukraine causing stress and concern as we empathize with the Ukrainian people.
  • Potential cyberattacks or nuclear threats by Russia.

To cope with the hyper-aware state of affairs it is recommended that:

  • You keep things in perspective. Involuntary change increases feeling out of control.
  • Take control of the things you can. Examples of these are going for a walk, taking a nap, call someone, text someone or listen to music that improves your mood.
  • Limit your exposure to the media. It is recommended that you don’t have a 24 hour news station on. This brings graphic images into your home and mind that have a negative impact on emotions. Read or listen to the news instead of viewing the news.
  • Use credible sources for information gathering. News on social media is unreliable and may be motivated by causes unknown.

During these challenging times, we at the Miami Psychology Group are here to help.