‘Tis the Season: 3 in 10 Brits say their mental health nosedives over Christmas

A new study cites financial worries, entertaining guests and keeping everyone happy as key factors in peoples’ mental health worsening over the festive period.

According to a new poll by our partners Skipton Building Society, 3 in 10 Brits claim their mental health takes a complete ‘nosedive’ over the Christmas period, largely due to pressures such as money, entertaining guests and keeping others happy.

The poll of 2,000 adults found that meeting the expectations of relatives, social commitments, and the pressure to pay for everything leaved many feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

The study found that:

  • A third said they struggle more during the winter months due to living with SAD (seasonal affective disorder)
  • 31% are already suffering from sleepless nights as they worry about the festive period
  • 13% feel likely to experience more headaches and 1 in 5 will feel more irritable

The most common struggles the public feel during the festive period include feeling overwhelmed (15%), anxiety (12%) and tiredness (12%).

More than 4 in 10 (41%) said they were feeling the pressure to make this Christmas extra special. Among those trying to make this year a festive season to remember, as many as 7 in 10 said the burden is negatively affecting their mental health.

“While we’re all hoping this year we can spend more time over Christmas in the company of loved ones than we did last year, that needn’t come at such a cost to our mental wellbeing. The pandemic has put a lot of pressure on families to try to make up for last year's Christmas, which saw loved ones separated at such a special time of the year. But we all have mental health, and it's so important to recognise when it may be declining and some of the things we can do to preserve it, such as simply talking with trusted others or accessing free support online.”

– Stacey Stothard, spokeswoman at Skipton Building Society

Affording presents and food (29%), January debt (29%) and trying to juggle work with social engagements (20%) feature among the other reasons Christmas takes its toll on some.

Of those who find Christmas stressful, a quarter admitted they feel lonelier at this time of year and 22% don’t have friends and family to celebrate with.

The research – conducted by OnePoll – also shows a divide between how different age groups and genders are coping with Christmas. 76% of those aged 18 to 24 were most likely to find the period stressful, with almost 4 in 10 of under 24s saying they have no one they feel comfortable talking to about their mental health.

Meanwhile the 65s and over are less likely to find Christmas a worrying time, with just 44% saying they struggled over the festive period.

Women are more likely to struggle than men, with 6 in 10 pretending to be absolutely fine even when they are not.

Harbouring feelings is a theme for many, particularly the 30% of adults who feel they have no one they are comfortable talking to about their mental health at this time of year.

"We see people piling pressure on themselves around the festive period in lots of ways such as meeting up with family and friends and spending money, which can affect our mental health.

“The pandemic has clearly had a significant impact on our wellbeing, and long-term uncertainty can compound these pressures, fuelling feelings of stress and anxiety in the run up to Christmas. However, there are ways we can each support our wellbeing through the winter, and places we can get support, like our online community, Clic.

“We are hugely grateful for Skipton Building Society’s generous donation of £200,000 towards our work. This money will help us run our online community platform Clic for 18 months to ensure anyone can connect and get access to support for their mental health. Every conversation can make a difference, and Clic provides a safe and welcoming environment for everyone to find someone to talk to.”

– Katie Legg, Director of Strategy and Partnerships at Mental Health UK

Skipton Building Society carried out the study to highlight that while many people might feel overwhelmed this Christmas, support is out there including from ourselves at Mental Health UK.

Our top winter wellbeing tips:

  • Set a budget and stick to it – to avoid overspending and ending up in debt
  • Log off, wrap up and get outside – Being in nature and taking notice of surroundings can do wonders for mental health at a time when it feels easier to be indoors.
  • It’s OK not to feel OK – but if you want someone to talk to join Clic an online community set up by Mental Health UK
  • Prioritise your wellbeing – make sure you only do things you want to do.
  • Mental Health UK is sharing winter wellbeing tips every day in the lead up to Christmas on the @mhealthuk Instagram page, give us a follow and join in the conversation.

To find out more about our partnership with Skipton Building Society, visit www.skipton.co.uk/charity-partner

Your donation will make the difference

Just £10 could help pay for a call to our advice and information line, supporting someone living with mental illness who may be feeling in distress during this time.

Donate today