Christmas and Subjective Well-Being: a Research Note

Abstract

According to Holmes and Rahe, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11(2), 213–218, (1967), Christmas is a critical life event that may cause feelings of stress that, in turn, can lead to reduced subjective well-being (SWB) and health problems. This study uses a quantitative approach and large-scale survey data to assess whether or not respondents in European countries indicate lower SWB before and around Christmas. Precisely, respondents interviewed in the week before Christmas or at Christmas holidays are compared to respondents who are questioned at other times throughout the year. Moreover, the assumption is tested if religious denomination and religiousness moderate the association between Christmas and SWB. Main findings suggest that the Christmas period is related to a decrease in life satisfaction and emotional well-being. However, Christians, particularly those with a higher degree of religiousness, are an exception to this pattern.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The SRSS consists of 43 stressful life events. It asks respondents to indicate all events they have faced during the previous year. Each event is assigned with a score that is supposed to capture the typical level of stress that comes along with the respective event. For instance, a divorce accounts for a stress level of 73 points and “being fired at work” accounts for 47 points. Christmas is associated with a stress level of 12 points.

  2. 2.

    According to Holmes and Rahe (1967), a score above 150 points is supposed to increase the chance of a major health breakdown by 50 % and scores above 300 are associated with an 80 % increase.

  3. 3.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/178859/americans-initial-christmas-spending-estimate-positive.aspx (06/22/2015).

  4. 4.

    A marginal number of N = 73 interviews were conducted in July and August. It was decided to exclude these interviews from the analyses because July and August are the peak months of Europe’s summer holiday season and this may be associated with increased subjective well-being amongst respondents. Although the exclusion of these 73 cases has no influence on the results, it still seems the proper way to handle the data.

  5. 5.

    The curvilinear age effect suggests that life satisfaction is generally declining over the life-course. However, at younger ages the relative decline in life satisfaction per year is larger than in older age groups.

  6. 6.

    Support of this notion is provided by the Kasser and Sheldon study (2002: 324), when they argue that materialistic strivings involve more stressful experiences and distract people from the ‚true meaning’ of the season.

  7. 7.

    http://www.de.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssetsPI/EY_Studie_-_Weihnachtsgeschaeft_2014/$FILE/EY-Weihnachtsgeschaeft-2014.pdf (06/22/2015).

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Mutz, M. Christmas and Subjective Well-Being: a Research Note. Applied Research Quality Life 11, 1341–1356 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-015-9441-8

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Keywords

  • Life satisfaction
  • Emotions
  • Christmas
  • Holiday
  • Religion