Holiday 2021 Stress Report: Increase in Anxiety, Depression & COVID-Related Stress

Bah humbug - 56% of Americans say holidays too stressful, prefer to cancel

November 2021

As attention turns to a second COVID holiday season, we took a pulse on the state of stress in America to determine most common stressors, impact on mental health and wellbeing -- and how (and if) consumers are seeking out help. Here’s a look at what we found.

Mental health & the holidays
3 in 5 Americans feel their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays -- a trend that’s increasing year-over-year. Compared to how they felt during the 2020 holiday season:

- 60% report an increase in anxiety

- 52% feel an increase in depression

- Nearly 70% feel more financial stress

- 64% feel an increase in COVID-19 related stress

This stress makes 67% of Americans consider seeking out a mental health professional to talk to -- and another 8% are interested but don’t feel they can afford it right now. Further, more than half of Americans (56%) wish the holidays were canceled, due to the stress of the season.

Sources of stress
Shopping for gifts tops the list of Americans’ biggest stressors during the holiday season (with 26% rating it their number one cause of stress), followed by managing children’s excitement (17%) and navigating difficult family dynamics (17%).

Supply chain is on consumers’ minds -- with consumers slightly more stressed about whether their gifts will get here in time (14%) than navigating COVID logistics such as who has been vaccinated, etc. (13%).

COVID & holiday 2021 plans
When it comes to what’s on Americans’ agenda for seasonal activities and travel, COVID-19 remains a factor.

- 7 in 10 respondents say they will see less family and/or friends than they usually do

- Almost a third (30%) of respondents will travel to see out-of-town family and friends, with the remainder not feeling comfortable yet

- Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they won't see family or friends who haven't been fully vaccinated (including applicable booster shots) for the holidays this year

- Large gatherings such as holiday parties or performances are not on the list for 7 in 10 consumers

Coping with stress
It’s clear that Americans are overwhelmed this holiday season. So, how are they coping with this stress? By eating, exercising and having sex -- not necessarily in that order. Eating comfort food and exercising are tied for the number one way consumers relieve their stress (19%) -- followed by having sex and drinking alcohol tied at number two (14%).

Luckily, nearly a quarter (22%) of Americans ease their stress by talking to someone -- either a mental health professional (12%) or a trusted family member or friend (10%).

To view the latest holiday stress results, visit our 2023 Holiday Stress Survey.

Methodology: This survey was commissioned by Sesame via Pollfish. Data was collected from 500 general population respondents in the U.S., ages 18+, on October 27, 2021.