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'Tis the Season to Be Stressed, New Poll Finds
  • Posted November 20, 2023

'Tis the Season to Be Stressed, New Poll Finds

The song says 'tis the season to be jolly, but many Americans find it to be more the season of stress and worry, a new survey reports.

The strain of inflation and world affairs this year are adding to the other holiday-time stressors to create a toxic mental health cocktail, according to findings from Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine.

Survey results show that:

  • 81% of Americans are stressing out over national issues and world affairs

  • 75% are stressed about rising prices and holiday spending

  • 53% are stressed from increasing cases of flu, COVID and other respiratory illnesses

  • 44% are stressed from memories of last year's holiday travel meltdown

These findings run counter to the notion that holidays are supposed to be a time for families and friends to connect, recharge and enter the new year with a fresh outlook, said researcher Nicole Hollingshead, a psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at the Wexner Medical Center.

“The holidays kind of bring on this feeling of sadness and struggle when we really want it to be more of a joyous time,” Hollingshead said in a university news release. “I encourage people to reflect on what the holidays meant for you growing up. And most of the time I don't hear people reflect on, 'I loved having all the presents, or I remember every single thing that someone gave me.' Instead, it's more of the feeling of the holidays.”

People can resist holiday stress by stepping back and taking charge of what they can control, rather than focusing on things they can't, Hollingshead said.

For example, people can:

  • Plan your holiday budget and take steps to reduce spending in response to anxiety over high prices.

  • Limit the time spent watching TV news and doom scrolling online news and social media, to manage stress over national and world affairs.

  • Catch up on recommended vaccinations and protect against infection by wearing a mask when out, washing your hands and social distancing, to manage stress over the cold and flu season.

  • Keep an eye out for flight delays or traffic jams, and always have a plan B in case things go wrong, to control stress over unreliable travel plans.

Hollingshead also encourages people to avoid emotional spending fueled by advertising that tap into a nostalgic desire for a picture-perfect holiday, on par with Clark Griswold's “fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.”

“It gets close to the holidays, and I worry: 'Did I buy enough for my family? Did I do enough?' And so we can lose sight of the importance of having too many gifts or making sure everybody has enough to unwrap,” Hollingshead said. “Then we lose sight of the big picture, which is that time together.”

The survey was conducted between Oct. 20 and Oct. 23 among a sample of 1,007 respondents. The margin of error for total respondents is +/-3.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

More information

The Mayo Clinic has more about holiday stress.

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, Nov. 20, 2023

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