This article originally appeared on VICE AU.
Australia’s overall response to the coronavirus pandemic has, on balance, been pretty good. We seem to have controlled the spread of the virus, flattened the curve, and gotten a handle on it more effectively than most other countries.
But it was our proficiency for panic buying where we really outstripped the rest of the world.
New research into the phenomenon of coronavirus-related panic buying shows that Australians were the quickest in the world to plunder supermarkets of toilet paper and canned soup, Fairfax reports. Two academics from the University of New South Wales, Mike Keane and Tim Neal, used Google search data from 54 countries between January and late April to pinpoint the scope and intensity of panic buying in response to COVID-19.
While consumers in almost every nation stockpiled goods such as toilet paper, soup, flour, rice, and pasta, Professor Keane and Dr Neal used a "panic index" to confirm that Australians took the hoarding to a particularly extreme degree.
"The experience of Australia is notable for the incredible speed and scale with which panic took hold in early March," they said. "Unlike in other countries, the escalation in panic does not appear to correspond with any significant increase in domestic COVID-19 cases."
Professor Keane and Dr Neal suggested that this surge of panic buying may have been triggered by restrictions in other countries around the world, as Australian consumers feared they might not be able to get their hand on sought-after goods and household staples.
Australian National University marketing lecturer Andrew Hughes blamed FOMO.
"Once one person misses out on something, the FOMO principle kicks in,” he said. “In this day and age, once people think they are going to miss out on something, it triggers a fear that they'll miss out on it.
"It could be an iPhone or it could be toilet paper."