Why did all the toilet paper disappear? Distinguishing between panic buying and hoarding during COVID-19

Jonathan David, Shanara Visvalingam, Melissa M. Norberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The COVID-19 pandemic led to panic buying in many countries across the globe, preventing vulnerable groups from accessing important necessities. Some reports inaccurately referred to the panic buying as hoarding. Although hoarding is a separate issue characterised by extreme saving behaviour, the two problems may be influenced by similar factors. Participants from Australia and the United States (final N = 359) completed online self-report measures of panic buying, hoarding, shopping patterns, perceived scarcity, COVID-19 illness anxiety, selfishness, and intolerance of uncertainty. Our findings showed that panic buying was related to hoarding symptoms (r’s = .23 - .36), and yet, both were uniquely associated with different psychological factors. Whilst panic buying was most strongly related to greater perceived scarcity (r’s = .38 - .60), hoarding was most related to a general intolerance of uncertainty (r’s = .24 - .57). Based on our findings, future strategies to prevent panic buying should focus on reducing perceived scarcity cues in the community, as this seems to be the primary driver of panic buying. Another preventative strategy to reduce excessive acquiring and saving may be to implement educational programs to increase people's ability to tolerate distress and uncertainty.
Original languageEnglish
Article number114062
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalPsychiatry Research
Early online date17 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • panic buying
  • hoarding
  • stockpiling
  • perceived scarcity
  • selfishness
  • intolerance of uncertainty
  • healthy anxiety


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