Here's how to have a merry Christmas, according to science

The festive season is usually associated with a great source of joy. But are we really happy at Christmas? And is there a way to maximize our well-being?

Christmas merry happy science truth
© The Irishman / Netflix
Christmas merry happy science truth

TW: mention of suicide

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Christmas festivities and all the pressure that goes with them are on the horizon, and while some people look forward to them, others dread them. Most of us assume that Christmas is a joyous time, but is it really? Science has the answer to the question of whether people are happy and healthy or dissatisfied and unhappy during the 'most wonderful time of the year'. Here's the scientifical truth.

Are people really merry at Christmas?

A study by the University of Missouri (USA) published in the Journal of Happiness Studies asked panel members about their 'cheerfulness' during the last festive season, with 74.8% of people scoring above 'neutral', meaning they were happy.

While stress levels fall in the middle of the scale, with 57.4% disagreeing and 43.6% agreeing that the vacation was stressful, most people are still relatively satisfied with their vacation experience.

So the answer is yes. Christmas makes most people happy!

Christmas is a time for cardiovascular accidents

Interestingly, research shows that cardiac mortality is highest in December and January, suggesting that Christmas and New Year's Eve are risk factors for vulnerable people.

A common explanation is excess food, alcohol and holiday stress. While increased hospital admissions are certainly a factor in holiday blues, the good news is that studies show no increase in psychiatric admissions.

And it's a myth that more people commit suicide at Christmas. The statistics reveal a carry-over effect, i.e. fewer people commit suicide in the run-up to the holidays, but the number of suicides increases afterwards.

What's the secret to a merry Christmas, according to science?

Despite the importance of Christmas in many cultures, research has not examined the types of experiences and activities that are associated with holiday well-being.

A survey of people aged 18 to 80 showed that happiness was greater when family and religious experiences were favored, and well-being was lower when spending money and receiving gifts predominated.

Engaging in environmentally-friendly consumption practices also predicts happier vacations, as does being older and male.

So the scientific advice for celebrating a truly joyous Christmas is to spend time with family, go to church for believers and not focus on spending or gifts. Caring about the environment can also help.

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This article has been translated from Gentside FR.

Is Christmas really a merry time? Here is what science says Is Christmas really a merry time? Here is what science says