From buying gifts to hosting family dinners, the holiday season is arguably a stressful time of year. On top of traditional holiday stressors, employment concerns, economic worries, and COVID-19 are a few additional factors weighing on mental well-being this year, which in turn will influence how they shop and celebrate this season (see the CivicScience Consumer Holiday Tracker for the full scoop).

The latest CivicScience polling shows that both stress and anxiety increase during the holidays for many Americans. Almost half of U.S. adults say they are typically more stressed (48%), and just more than 2-in-5 are more anxious (43%). Only 9% of consumers say they experience less of these feelings.

A large percentage of consumers are also reporting they feel that the holiday season has become too commercialized and stressful, with 47% strongly agreeing and an additional 29% ‘somewhat’ agreeing.

So, what causes consumers the most stress during the holiday season? Excluding those who don’t typically get stressed during the holiday season, buying gifts is by far the most common stressor (46%). Following are spending time with relatives (15%), hosting (11%), and traveling (10%).

Debt is likely another stressor around the holiday season — recent polling shows that 11% of U.S. adults anticipate taking on some amount of debt to purchase gifts this year. That said, it’s unsurprising that consumers who are ‘a lot more stressed’ during the holiday season are much more likely to say they anticipate taking on debt to buy gifts (32%), jumping down to 10% among those ‘a little more stressed.’ This could hint that those feeling heightened stress levels could be most stressed about their financial health.

This is also in line with 45% of consumers who feel ‘a lot more stressed’ reporting they are financially worse off than before the pandemic, jumping down to 26% among those who feel ‘a little more stressed.’

What else we’re seeing in the data: 

  • How are Americans combating stress this year? CBD / Cannabidiol products are one way consumers may deal with stress this year. Currently, just under one-quarter of U.S. adults are likely to use these products (24%), which is up three percentage points from 2020.
  • How do stress levels influence where people will spend money this holiday season? Consumers reporting reduced stress levels are the most likely to say they’re shopping for holiday gifts at specialty stores (like Gap or Best Buy), whereas those reporting the highest levels of stress are the most likely to shop at discount stores (like Walmart or Target) and deep discount stores (dollar stores).

Want to see the factors shaping your consumers’ spending habits this holiday season? Work with us.