Men are just as likely to be compulsive shoppers as women, according to a new study. Previously, it was thought about 90 per cent of people with the condition – characterised by excessive binge- spending followed by deep regret – were women. But research from the United States suggests it is more common among men than realised.

Experts also speculated greater publicity about the problem in women’s magazines may have contributed to a higher number of women seeking help.

A psychiatric team from the Stanford University school of medicine in California, led by Professor Lorrin Koran, questioned more than 2,500 people about their spending habits.

The team found just under six per cent had symptoms consistent with a compulsion for spending. They found almost no difference between the sexes: six per cent of women and 5.5 per cent of men showed signs of the condition.

"The widespread opinion that most compulsive buyers are women may be wrong," Professor Koran said.

"Compulsive buying leads to serious psychological, financial and family problems including depression, overwhelming debt and the break-up of relationships.

"People don’t realise the extent of damage it does to the sufferer."

The researchers, whose work was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found compulsive shoppers were more likely to be young adults with an income of less than about £25,000. They were also likely to be close to their credit-card limit.

A spokesman for Promis, a private clinic which treats addictions including compulsive shopping, said about 70 per cent of patients with the condition were women, but the number of men seeking help was rising.