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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 242-243

Panic buying during COVID-19 pandemic: A letter to the editor

1 Department of Psychiatry, Enam Medical College and Hospital, Dhaka, Bangladesh
2 Department of Psychiatry, King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
3 Department of Psychiatry, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry, India
4 Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Patan Academy of Health Sciences, Lalitpur, Nepal
5 Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health Nursing, Universitas Syiah Kuala, Banda Aceh, Indonesia
6 School of Allied Health, Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine, and Social Care, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, England, United Kingdom

Date of Submission08-Jun-2020
Date of Decision19-Jul-2020
Date of Acceptance26-Jul-2020
Date of Web Publication25-Nov-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Vikas Menon
Department of Psychiatry, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry - 605 006
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aip.aip_48_20

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How to cite this article:
Yasir Arafat S M, Kar SK, Menon V, Sharma P, Marthoenis M, Kabir R. Panic buying during COVID-19 pandemic: A letter to the editor. Ann Indian Psychiatry 2020;4:242-3

How to cite this URL:
Yasir Arafat S M, Kar SK, Menon V, Sharma P, Marthoenis M, Kabir R. Panic buying during COVID-19 pandemic: A letter to the editor. Ann Indian Psychiatry [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Aug 19];4:242-3. Available from: https://www.anip.co.in/text.asp?2020/4/2/242/301434


COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every spheres of life in almost every country in the world. A wide range of psychological reactions and few unusual phenomena have been observed in the different parts of the world. Panic buying (PB) is one of them which has come into focus since the initial phase of this COVID-19 pandemic.[1] It has been reported in different countries, namely Singapore, Japan, Australia, Italy, Spain, UK, USA, Mexico, North Korea, France, Egypt, the Philippines, and Hong Kong.[1]

Several psychological explanations have been proposed for the behavior, for example, it happens due to the perceived scarcity of necessary goods; to gain control over the surrounding environment, uncertainty, and insecurity; as a result of social learning, instinctual behavior, media influence, and lack of confidence in authorities.[2] PB shares the overlapping realms of several disciplines such as behavioral science, marketing and supply chain management, sociology, economics, public health, public administration, and disaster management.[3] However, there are challenges to conducting studies on the behavior because it is unpredictable, sudden, irregular, and has been mostly noticed during emergencies. Since the latter do not occur on a frequent basis, studying this phenomenon is difficult. Further, during this COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult to conduct any study due to lockdown and resultant restriction of movement. Finally, PB has not received sufficient attention from the stakeholders.

Due to the above reasons, PB is an understudied phenomenon, and there is a dearth of empirical studies on the behavior. Existing classificatory systems do not adequately capture the nuances of the construct. More research on the diagnostic validity of the construct, and its overlap with anxiety or mood disorders are warranted. Notably, there has been no attempt to define the phenomenon of PB scientifically and comprehensively. Therefore, in this article, we discuss the various aspects of several proposed definitions of PB to facilitate scholarly research and debate on the entity.

Google defines PB as “the action of buying large quantities of a particular product or commodity due to sudden fears of a forthcoming shortage or price rise.”[4] As per the Cambridge Dictionary, PB is defined as “a situation in which many people suddenly buy as much food, fuel, etc., as they can because they are worried about something bad that may happen.”[5] Whereas others have explained that PB may happen in response to the impending danger that can increase prices and provoke scarcity.[6]

Prior studies have mentioned that “PB may refer to the phenomenon of a sudden increase in buying of one or more essential goods in excess of regular need provoked by adversity, usually a disaster or an outbreak resulting in an imbalance between supply and demand.”[7] The key components of the definition include a sudden increase in buying commodities which are usually items of daily needs; purchased quantities are in excess of regular need; the behavior is usually provoked by adverse events that instill fear about scarcity; and it creates an imbalance between supply and demand. The behavior is usually impulsive; however, it may also be well planned.

For example, in response to adversity, some individuals may buy commodities impulsively whereas others may indulge in planning what and how much to buy, considering the available resources and perceived scarcity. The amount and/or the number of items purchased during PB are variable and could be large or small. Although usually triggered by adverse events such as disaster or disease outbreak, PB has also been observed during ceremonial events or during mundane times. Despite its obvious public health relevance, PB is an under-addressed issue.

To conclude, PB is an important social and psychological construct and further research is warranted; very little is known about its biological and physiological correlates as of now. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity for researchers to examine the phenomenon. This letter aims to draw the attention of the global scientific community to PB behavior. PB is a preventable phenomenon and expected to recur (either during the COVID-19 pandemic itself or some other similar situations). Adequate sensitization of public and better disaster preparedness would help prevent PB.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Sim K, Chua HC, Vieta E, Fernandez G. The anatomy of panic buying related to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Psychiatry Res 2020;288:113015.  Back to cited text no. 1
Arafat SM, Kar SK, Marthoenis M, Sharma P, Hoque Apu E, Kabir R. Psychological underpinning of panic buying during pandemic (COVID-19). Psychiatry Res 2020;289:113061.  Back to cited text no. 2
Arafat SM, Kar SK, Kabir R. Possible controlling measures of panic buying during COVID-19. Int J Ment Health Addiction 2020;1-3:online ahead of print. [doi. org/10.1007/s11469-020-00320-1].  Back to cited text no. 3
Cambridge Dictionary; 2020. Available from: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/panic-buying. [Last accessed on 2020 June 5]  Back to cited text no. 5
Lufkin B. Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak, People are Flocking to Supermarkets Worldwide – But are they Simply Preparing, or Irrationally Panicking? BBC; 2020. Available from: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200304-coronavirus-covid-19-update- why-people-are-stockpiling. [Last accessed on 2020 May 12].  Back to cited text no. 6
Arafat SM, Kar SK, Menon V, Kaliamoorthy C, Mukherjee S, Alradie-Mohamed A, et al. Panic buying: An insight from the content analysis of media reports during COVID-19 pandemic. Neurol Psychiat Br 2020;37:100-3.  Back to cited text no. 7

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