BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

The impact of the yuletide season on global health



Yay! The holidays are finally over and it’s time to get back to work. Actually, I’m not quite sure how many people are happy about the holidays being over but well, we don’t really have a choice :). Before we begin, BlessWorld Foundation International is using this opportunity to welcome you to a brand new year… Two thousand and nineteen! We hope you had a fabulous holiday and we wish you a happy and prosperous new year, 2019. In the spirit of the season, our first topic is to discuss the impact of the just concluded Christmas period on our health… I think this will be very interesting, so, stay tuned 🙂

The yuletide period is typically a time of celebration which commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ- a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. However, some people celebrate this period solely because it’s a general time off work and do not attach any religious or cultural significance to it. It is an annual holiday, primarily observed on December 25th, and leads on to the beginning of a new calendar year. Christmas is usually the peak selling season for most retailers as sales increase dramatically. People purchase gifts, decorations, and supplies for family, friends and even strangers to celebrate with. In the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, the Christmas sale period begins as early as October and brings in millions of dollars.

Several studies have been conducted to evaluate and assess the impact of the Christmas season on health in general. In 2011, a study titled The Christmas Effect on Psychopathology- the study of mental health, reviewed the available research on whether the Christmas holiday was more difficult than the rest of the year. The authors found that ER visits for mental health issues actually reduced during the week of Christmas. Additionally, Google search data by Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post revealed that searches for “depression”, “anxiety”, “pain”, “stress” and “fatigue”, were lowest on Christmas Day. This is great news; however, despite the joy and happiness around the yuletide season, it may be accompanied by several detrimental health effects.

More specifically, some studies show that cardiac mortality increases during the Christmas holiday period when compared to other periods in the year. Notably, a New Zealand study which used the Ministry of Health individual‐level daily mortality data for 26 years between 1988 and 2013. These findings have remained consistent among studies of this nature, suggesting that cardiac mortality does not go on holiday. Additionally, a “yuletide effect” on mortality which shows significant increase in deaths from natural causes at both Christmas and New Year’s Day has been established. Although there may be another plausible reasons for this effect; the fact that in Europe and North America, the Christmas holiday coincides with the coldest time of the year when mortality rates are already seasonally high due to low temperatures and influenza. However, some studies that used statistical techniques to eliminate the confounding effect of weather on the holiday effect still found that deaths from natural causes were almost 5% higher than would be expected if the holidays did not affect mortality.

Various factors implicated in this mortality holiday effect include emotional stress associated with the holidays; changes in food and alcohol intake; increased workload at medical facilities; changes in the physical environment; increased stress from planning, outing and partying; over eating and lack of exercise; family conflicts; alcohol misuse; loneliness; over spending and bankruptcy; mental health problems and domestic violence. Most of these factors are preventable, therefore we are encouraged to rest more, plan ahead and stay healthy/active during the yuletide period.


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