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What does science say about having a Merry Christmas?

Some people love the holidays, others think they’re awful. What’s the deal?

People are happier during the Christmas season, even if they do feel more stress:

…subjects are on the whole reasonably satisfied with their holiday experience, with 74.8% scoring above “neutral” in terms of their satisfaction. Subjects’ stress levels approach the midpoint of the scale, with 57.4% disagreeing that the holiday was stressful and 43.6% agreeing. The holiday experience involved substantially more PA than NA for most individuals, with 75.4% of the sample reporting more PA than “somewhat”, and only 6.2% reporting more than “somewhat” NA. In sum, then, most people are relatively satisfied with their holiday and experience more PA than NA. However, a substantial number of subjects reported significant stress during the holiday season.

And maybe as a result of that stress, people do have more heart attacks on Christmas. But the holidays do not drive them crazy. Studies show no increase in psychiatric admissions.

And it’s a myth that more people commit suicide on Christmas. (Um, actually, they wait until after Christmas.)

So what does science say adds up to a Merry Christmas?

Make sure to spend time with family, go to church, and don’t focus on spending money or getting gifts. Being environmentally conscious can help and, if possible, be old and male:

Despite the importance of Christmas within many cultures, research has not examined the types of experiences and activities that are associated with holiday well-being. Thus, we asked 117 individuals, ranging in age from 18 to 80, to answer questions about their satisfaction, stress, and emotional state during the Christmas season, as well as questions about their experiences, use of money, and consumption behaviors. More happiness was reported when family and religious experiences were especially salient, and lower well-being occurred when spending money and receiving gifts predominated. Engaging in environmentally conscious consumption practices also predicted a happier holiday, as did being older and male. In sum, the materialistic aspects of modern Christmas celebrations may undermine well-being, while family and spiritual activities may help people to feel more satisfied.

About Eric Barker