Compulsive buyers in Hong Kong are most likely to be aged 30 to 50, because they were brought up in the spend-spend-spend years when the economy was booming, a psychologist said yesterday. Stephen Jang Ta-chiang, a clinical psychologist at the Christian Family Services Centre, studied 300 cases involving debt problems. The cases were among 2,300 handled by the centre in the second half of last year. The findings showed 48 per cent of the cases involved overspending and 69 per cent of people in debt were aged between 31 and 50. Dr Jang warned overspending could lead to a more serious psychiatric problem of compulsive buying. He said many people developed undisciplined spending habits when the economy took off in 1970s, resorting to spending to ease their stress. 'However, the problem of overspending has surfaced since some of them can no longer repay the loans and credit card payments as many are out of work,' he explained. Dr Jang said common symptoms of compulsive buying included thinking about shopping for unnecessary items. This could lead to feelings of remorse or guilt. Psychiatry professor Lee Sing, of Chinese University, said middle-aged people were particularly vulnerable as they most often had money to spend. Older people tended to be less tempted to shop as they had not been influenced by television. Professor Lee also said banks lured people into overspending by issuing credit cards too easily. Among cases was a man in his 40s who earned $70,000 a month and was $2 million in debt. He spent thousands of dollars a night entertaining his friends in nightclubs. Another debtor, 45, had 26 credit cards and was $1.1 million in debt due to overspending by his wife.