Is sending a Christmas card good for your health?

Is sending a Christmas card good for your health?

It’s that time of year again (for the 160 countries that celebrate Christmas, at least). The Carollers begin to appear on the streets (well, on the streets of the usual Christmas movies on TV); festive songs play on the radio (incessantly, in fact); and we attend parties with work colleagues. Christmas is, apparently, the season to be merry and jovial.

However, although Christmas is a much-celebrated festive season, it is also a season that brings mixed feelings. As partygoers bustle about buying gifts and decorating houses, trees, and sometimes even rooftops and gardens, research since the 1950s has noted that, for some of us, depressive symptoms increase during this period ; a phenomenon called the “holiday blues”.

In fact, recent polls found that a quarter of people said the Christmas period can be stressful and worsen their mental health.

Against this background, research I conducted with colleagues from the Department of Psychology at the University of Limerick in Ireland, as well as at the University of Liverpool, UK, sought to determine whether other behavior Christmas, sending Christmas cards, could tell us something about the sender. Why do this? It may be that for those who are already depressed, a Christmas season loaded with these social behaviors is likely to be threatening due to loss of motivation or not enjoying their typical behaviors – in this case, sending Christmas cards. Loss of pleasure and motivation are the main characteristics of depression.

Additionally, we know that prosocial gestures like expressing gratitude in letters and cards have been found to stimulate positive emotions in both the recipient and the sender. As such, it’s likely that sending Christmas cards can be seen as more than just exchanging pleasantries and good wishes during the holiday season. We wanted to know if Christmas cards could lighten the mood of senders. Additionally, since Christmas is a Christian holiday, where sending cards and greetings are considered traditional and normative behaviors, we also sought to determine whether this was evident across all religious groups or among Christians only. .

Since Henry Cole, founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum, sent the first Christmas card in 1843, billions of them have been sent to mark the festive season, with around 1 billion sent each year in the UK United only. Also, while the sending of letters by post is down, at Christmas 2020 the exchange of Christmas cards has increased. So, given the popularity of sending Christmas cards, we conducted this study to see if there was an association between sending Christmas cards and depressive symptoms.

What did the study find?

We found that about 55% of non-depressed people said they “always” send Christmas cards, compared to 46% of people with depression. And, when we controlled for gender, ethnicity and religious affiliation, the study showed that the decrease in the likelihood of sending cards was only evident for Christians and no other religions.

    Brigitte Tohm/Pexels

Christmas cards and your sanity

Source: Brigitte Tohm/Pexels

How did we examine this phenomenon?

We used data from over 2,400 people who participated in the UK Wave 5 dataset. We then extracted information indicating whether or not individuals sent Christmas cards with these categories: “always”, “sometimes”, “never” and “I don’t know what it is”. Participants also reported their symptoms of depression on a validated psychometric scale. On this scale, we have classified, on the basis of well-established threshold scores, people with and without depression. For our main analyzes (i.e. regression and chi-square analyses), we also took into account their gender, education, monthly income, ethnicity and Christian affiliation.

What does all this mean?

Our results suggest that sending Christmas cards may provide insight into the behavior displayed by people with depression, especially for Christians at this time. However, other religious groups may have festival-related behaviors that may reflect these cultural values. Additionally, previous research has shown that the prosocial gesture of expressing gratitude in letters and cards has been shown to stimulate positive emotions in both the recipient and the sender, and here we found that it was more than just an exchange of pleasantries and good wishes. holiday season.

These results seem to offer evidence that it is the mood of senders that can influence their Christmas behaviors. In terms of take-home messages or how the results can be used, although the study is cross-sectional in nature and further work is needed, if you don’t hear from someone who sends you regularly a Christmas card, it may be worth checking in with them and spreading Christmas cheer. Additionally, we know that art therapy is often used for people with depression, and perhaps making and sending such cards could be used as an activity in these settings.

#sending #Christmas #card #good #health

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