More than 90 per cent of people surveyed online in Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore said they shop just 'for something to do'.
In each of the 42 markets surveyed by ACNielsen, the majority of consumers shop just for something to do. But the percentage was significantly higher in Asian countries than Europe or the US.
In fact, nine out of 10 of the world's countries with the highest percentage of 'recreational shoppers' were in the Asia-Pacific, including South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, China and Taiwan.
However when the results were broken down into shopping types, most people said they found grocery shopping a chore. But food retailers in Asia-Pacific still benefit from a higher-than-average number of consumers who said that grocery shopping was their 'favourite thing to do' - 12 per cent of those surveyed compared with just 8 per cent in Europe and 9 per cent in North America.
Americans, despite their reputation as indebted shopaholics, fall below the global average for recreational shopping, with only 68 per cent shopping when they do not really need anything, found the survey.
"When we launched this survey, we expected to see results in line with the conventional wisdom that US consumers are among the world's biggest shopping fans," said Tom Markert, chief marketing officer at ACNielsen.
"However, with the emergence of a new middle class and new opportunities for spending in many developing markets in Asia, it's understandable that there is a huge enthusiasm in those regions about shopping-far beyond that of the US consumer, who may have a 'been there, done that' view of the shopping experience."
The survey also shows that consumers do not need to be satisfied with their bank accounts to shop for fun. About 44 per cent of consumers in Asia-Pacific rated their outlook for their personal finances as not so good or bad, compared to just 36 per cent of consumers in the US.
"There are many ways retailers can take advantage of the opportunity presented by this huge pool of recreational shoppers," said Markert. "Positioning their brands so that shopping is seen as an 'experience' or an 'event', rather than a chore, will bring current recreational shoppers into their stores-and create new ones."
ACNielsen Malaysia's managing director Steve Watt said shopping has become a national pastime in many Asian countries.
"It is so entrenched in lifestyles in Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia that governments have wisely turned this national characteristic into a major tourism attraction," he said in a statement.
The trend is also set to hit India and Vietnam, the fastest growing emerging markets in Asia.
"In these two countries, as well as many more developed parts of Asia such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, shopping malls are entertainment destinations incorporating cinemas, restaurants, food courts and additional sports and entertainment facilities to suit all budgets," added Watt.
He said that in congested Asian cities where accommodation is cramped and people often live with extended families, the shopping mall has become a home away from home.
"People go there to escape the worries and stress of work and home life and meet their friends and 'hang out'," he said.
The survey took place in November 2005 and polled over 23,500 regular Internet users in 42 markets. The sample size in most markets was approximately 500, although 1,000 consumers were surveyed in China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.