Making a case against the holidays

Abigail Duchow, Columnist

I don’t think holidays are really as great as they’re made out to be by Hallmark movies. Holidays have become a commercialized plague of stress, money and health problems that include very little reward.

Stress and financial strain

A 2019 article published by PR Newswire found that 61% of Americans were “dreading the winter holidays due to spending,” with 57% specifically dreading Christmas. One in three Americans were losing sleep over how they’ll pay for the holidays, about 25% expected to incur debt during the holiday season, and nearly one in five were still paying off bills from the previous year’s holidays.

A study published by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2006 found that 38% of people reported higher levels of stress during the holidays. This stress was disproportionately reported by women, with 44% of women reporting an increase in stress versus 31% of men. The reason for this discrepancy is that women more often reported taking on the primary responsibilities of holiday celebrations, such as cooking, cleaning and shopping. 

As for the rest of the people, 54% reported stress levels staying the same, and only 8% reported a decrease in stress during the holidays.

Also found by the APA, people who have a lower middle household income between $30,000-$50,000 also report higher levels of stress around the holidays. Of the people in this income range, 53% reported their stress increasing during the holidays, versus 31% of people with lower incomes and 40% of people with higher incomes.

According to Statista, in 2019 about 20% of Americans have a household income between $25,000-$50,000, indicating the income group reporting the highest levels of stress make up a sizable amount of the population. 

APA found that people who reported increased levels of stress during the holidays are more likely than others to worry about the financial demands of the holidays. Of people who reported their stress increasing around the holidays, 76% reported often or sometimes worrying about money versus 55% of people who reported no change in stress. 

Similarly, 70% of people who reported increased levels of stress during the holidays often or sometimes felt stress about buying gifts, versus 32% of people who reported no change in stress.

Another statistic worth noting from the APA is that 39% of people reported not being paid enough to afford the holidays and 27% of people reported losing hours at work they needed to pay bills being a very or somewhat significant factor of stress around the holidays.

Health problems

Chronic stress can have a large impact on physical health. According to Healthline, stress can lead to symptoms such as headaches, increased depression, insomnia, tense muscles, weakened immune system, high blood pressure and stomach issues, among others. 

According to American Addiction Centers, people also tend to binge drink and increase alcohol consumption around the holidays. Not only does this apply around winter holidays, but holidays such as the Fourth of July, Cinco de Mayo and Thanksgiving.

While alcohol consumption may be linked to celebration, it should also be noted that alcohol can be used as a crutch during social situations and in times of stress, according to Very Well Mind.

Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to heart conditions, high blood pressure, heart failure and strokes, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

According to Patient Care, numerous studies have found a link between the holidays and cardiovascular events including heart failure, cardiac mortality and acute myocardial infarctions (heart attacks).

So, with all this in mind, it’s no surprise that chronic stress combined with the influence of alcohol around the holidays leads to health problems. 


Holidays put very unnecessary pressure on people, particularly Americans. The commercialization and high expectations that come with the holidays have a great impact not only on people’s mental health but physical health as well.

There are many other factors that could be brought up about why the holidays may not be as great as they’re made out to be by movies and commercials. But, these are some of the most significant ways holidays have a negative impact on people’s lives and society.

Rather than the holidays making people feel obligated to go see family members that may create stress and buying extravagant gifts when money is already scarce, people should use time throughout the year to visit family when they actually want to and buy their friends and family nice things when they have the means to. 

I personally don’t really celebrate holidays at all. But, until the commercialization and stress of holidays stop, I don’t think people who want to celebrate can ever be truly happy celebrating.