What do we know about consumers’ ontological security in disaster scenarios?

Rayan Fawaz*, Stéphane Bourliataux-Lajoinie, Anna Rößner, Shintaro Okazaki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
76 Downloads (Pure)


While prior consumer studies have adopted various theoretical perspectives to explain individuals' reactions to disasters, scant attention has been paid to the role of ontological security in shaping those responses. This study attempts to fill this knowledge gap by qualitatively exploring ontological security in two contexts: man-made and natural disasters. To this end, we conducted 35 focus groups in the UK, Germany, and France to address how people reacted to terrorist attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic respectively. Through thematic analysis, three themes emerged: fear versus anxiety, oneself versus others, and materialistic versus experiential purchases. Man-made disasters appear to elicit fear, concern for self, and a preference for materialistic purchases, whereas natural disasters seem to trigger anxiety, concern for others, and a preference for experiential purchases. Both types of disasters seem to evoke a desire to escape from reality. In closing, we discuss both transitory and prolonged threats to ontological security and how they shape individuals' behaviours while restoring their security.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1483-1499
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal Of Consumer Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • anxiety
  • consumer response
  • disasters
  • fear
  • materialistic/experiential purchases
  • ontological security


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