The winter holidays are, in theory, a time for celebration, rest and relaxation before the new year ahead. However, that may be as much a fairy tale as Santa Claus. The reality is the most festive time of the year brings added stress for many, and this has been shown year-over-year by CivicScience data.

New polling data from the CivicScience InsightStore indicate that this year is no exception. The majority of U.S. adult respondents who celebrate the winter holidays said they feel more stressed during the holiday season (51%), while 40% feel about the same level of stress as they usually do. Not even 1-in-10 adults said that they feel less stressed during this time.


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Family visits, travel, prepping, cooking, winter illnesses, and gift-buying are all possible sources of annual holiday stress. However, buying gifts is by and far the leading reason for holiday-induced anxiety – identified as the main source of stress by U.S. adults.

It’s no surprise that women and parents are significantly more likely than men and non-parents or grandparents to report they feel added stress during the holiday season. A total of 58% of women say they feel more stressed during the holidays, compared to 45% of men. Likewise, 58% of parents say they’re more stressed, versus 46% of grandparents and 51% of non-parents.

And well over half of U.S. parents list gift-buying is the top reason why:

Part of the stress surrounding gift-buying is connected to finances and the ongoing sting of inflation. CivicScience data show that those who tend to feel more stressed around the holidays are also much more likely to take on debt to afford their holiday gifts this year. Nearly 7-in-10 people who expect to acquire debt for gift-buying are feeling stressed out during the holiday season, compared to 47% of people who don’t plan to take on debt.

How are stressed-out Americans likely to take the edge off this season?

  • Stressed-out people are much more likely to smoke cigarettes. One-quarter of celebrators who feel more stressed during the holidays say they smoke cigarettes ‘every day,’ compared to just 15% of people who feel the usual amount of stress during the holidays.
  • They’re also slightly more likely to drink alcohol (56%), however drinking is something that around 50% of Americans report they do on a weekly basis, regardless of holiday stress levels.
  • They’ll be shopping online – 43% of holiday shoppers experiencing more stress plan to do the majority of their holiday shopping online, compared to just 28% of shoppers who feel less stressed.
  • They’ll pamper themselves a little more. More than three-quarters say they splurge on themselves from time to time. They’re more likely than others to splurge on a salon or spa visit, a clothing shopping spree, or jewelry.
  • They’ll order takeout via delivery apps – 14% use online food delivery services such as DoorDash and Grubhub weekly, more than twice the rate of those not feeling added holiday stress.

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