Women Under 50 Most Stressed Over Holidays, Poll Finds

Woman holding gift boxes over holidays lights background

The holidays can be a stressful time of year for everyone, but those who feel the most stressed out during the most wonderful time of year are local women under 50, according to a new poll.

Sixty one percent of females in that age group reported their stress level is high or very high, a Truth in Medicine poll of New York Metro area found. That’s compared to non-holiday periods when 26 percent reported having high stress and 5 percent who reported their stress is very high. And 46 percent of those polled overall reporting high or very high levels of holiday-induced anxiety.

“Women seem to take the brunt of preparations during the holidays and it shows in the increased stress levels they are reporting,” said Dr. Adhi Sharma, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside. “Everybody reacts to stress in different ways. However, stress can be dangerous when it impacts our daily life for long periods of time.”

The Mount Sinai South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll, sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, is a quarterly survey of 600 Long Island and New York City residents conducted by LJR Custom Strategies over landlines and cell phones between Nov. 6 and 11.

Finances and family were the two top causes of stress cited by those polled. Twenty-five percent rated debt and financial concerns associated with the holidays as stress-inducing and 20 percent said family issues raised their stress levels. When asked to choose the top three out of five reasons for holiday stress, a plurality of respondents said all factors — finances, family, overscheduling, shopping, and overeating — cause stress.

“Chronic and long-term stress can have an adverse effect on your health,” said Dr. Aaron E. Glatt, MD, Chair of the Department of Medicine. “Talk to your loved ones about ways to make the holidays more enjoyable and less stressful. It can be as simple as asking other family members to contribute a dish to a family gathering so all the cooking doesn’t fall on one person.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s December 2018 Holiday Health and Safety Tips also recommend managing stress by “balancing work, home, and play” and “getting support from family and friends.” The American Psychological Association recommends managing expectations during the holidays to reduce stress and feel happier now and healthier in the long term. 

Coping mechanisms vary. While 61 percent of women under 50 exercise and 54 percent turn to friends to relieve stress, one in five use alcohol or drugs. Just 6 percent of area adults have sought counseling to help deal with stress, while 9 percent have considered counseling, with the key impediments being cost and time.

Poll results vary by race and other demographic indicators like whether or not residents live in the New York City or Long Island. As was the case with all women 50 and under surveyed, both black men and women respondents in the same age group reported very high or high stress levels around the holidays.

Retirement appears to alleviate a significant amount of stress. The least stressed demographic polled are respondents 65 and older who are retired or choose not to work. This was the only subgroup to not report an increase in stress as the holidays approach.

“At some point in our lives, everyone can use a little extra support in dealing with life’s challenges, especially around the holidays,” said Janet Kahn-Scolaro, LCSWR, PhD, Administrative Director of Behavioral Health and Family Medicine Services at Mount Sinai South Nassau. “When this is not enough, I cannot state enough the importance of speaking with a licensed professional who can help you understand your moods and behaviors and help you cope when life’s stresses become overwhelming.”