A study finds that 30% of people in France are anxious before the Christmas season


Some 18 months after the health crisis, and facing a second Covid Christmas, economic factors are adding to the stress of the holiday season this year in France and other countries.

In France, a third of people feel more sad and anxious than happy at the prospect of the Christmas holidays this year, according to a survey published on December 2 by Ifop and the charity Dons Solidaires.

However, the health situation in France is possibly better than at this time last year. In early December 2020, France was completely locked in amid a second wave of the virus and discussions about what kind of restrictions should be in place for year-end family gatherings to continue.

This year, while daily cases are increasing rapidly and there are fears about the new variant of Omicron, hospitalizations remain relatively low. Restaurants, shops and Christmas markets are still open, and for now, the seasonal festivities are expected to go ahead without restrictions. After a silent Christmas last year, shouldn’t people in France be fueled by the prospect of more joyous celebrations in 2021?

It’s not Christmas as usual yet, said Suzanne Black, a clinical psychologist practicing in both France and the United States. “We were given hope that Christmas 2021 would be better and we began to feel relief. Well, here we are at Christmas and recently we learned of another potentially more dangerous virus variant,” he told FRANCE 24.. Black described this as a “rude awakening” from pandemic fatigue. “We tend to forget that it is still a time for necessary vigilance. Now, once again, we have to reassess how we assess risk and whether we should go ahead with our holiday plans.”

Due to the health crisis, many of us are already living with feelings of “despair, loss of control and grief over how we lived our lives before the pandemic,” Black added. Around Christmas time, these feelings can seem even more poignant, and the family tensions of seasonal gatherings – the potential for disagreements, disappointments, and frustrated expectations – can be exacerbated by the health crisis. Now we are not only faced with the fear of getting sick, but this can be compounded by the animosity of loved ones who disagree on how to administer safety measures.

The added stress of this year is not only felt in France. In the U.S., one study found that 43 percent expected the 2021 holiday season to be more stressful than the previous one, and a Harris Poll survey conducted in October for the American Psychological Association found that nearly a third of Adults (32 percent) said they sometimes find themselves so anxious about the coronavirus that they struggle to make basic decisions. And in Britain, a weekly survey tracking national mood shows that since the summer, happiness levels have been falling while measures for stress and sadness have risen.

“This is a collective cross-cultural trauma,” says Black. “The holidays are times for reunions with loved ones and there is great anticipation of good times to share, but there is no respite from the initial anxiety caused by the pandemic.”

Supply chain concerns

Added to that benchmark anxiety in December are unusual economic circumstances caused by the health crisis.

The supply chain crisis, which has led to shortages of products from lumber to microchips around the world, is already affecting people’s Christmas plans. Back in September, the American Christmas Tree Association encouraged consumers to buy trees early because of “a variety of trends influencing the supply of live and artificial Christmas trees across the country.” A retail boom in November indicated that shoppers had taken notice and started shopping for Christmas products early to combat fears that supplies were running low. Still, many have found that due to rising shipping costs and high demand, the prices of all kinds of products have risen. Artificial Christmas trees alone are reportedly 20-30% more expensive this year than last.

A YouGov poll in Britain found that people were equally concerned about supply chain problems; They rated not being able to give gifts due to out of stock or late delivery as just as disturbing as the idea of ​​another strict closure being announced. The only potential Christmas restriction that would bother people the most was the idea of ​​not being able to see close family members.

The rising cost of living

In the US, UK, and France, the cost of living has risen at an exceptional rate, with rising spending on fuel, food, and other goods weighing on family budgets. In October 2021, the inflation rate reached record levels in the US and UK. In France, where inflation rose 2.6 percent, three-quarters of people reported that their purchasing power had decreased as a result. Since some of the biggest price increases were in gas and electric bills, 66 percent of people said they were trying to use less heat and hot water at home, and 58 percent were cutting expenses. additional.

It’s no wonder, then, that just two months later, the same financial pressure is affecting people’s Christmas plans. In a survey, just over half of people in France said they would have to buy smaller Christmas gifts than they expected this year and 29 percent of parents said they would not be able to buy gifts at all, compared to 20 percent last year. Similarly, in the UK, 36 per cent of parents already under financial pressure told the Action for Children charity that they felt more pressure to give their children a Merry Christmas this year because of the celebrations. canceled last year.

“This year, families have faced the double shock of going through the pandemic: many people have lost income, may have been laid off, may have lost their jobs, and are now entering winter and facing huge price increases. “Joe Lane, head of policy and research for the charity, told FRANCE 24.” They are concerned about fuel prices and energy prices in particular, but also about the price of food. Going into Christmas, families are obviously desperate to be able to afford a family Christmas, particularly families with children. “The pressure of trying to provide this often means that parents themselves run out of money and work overtime to get there. end of the month. “All of that weighs on the mood of the people,” Lane said.

Despite the financial concerns surrounding the festive season this year, in France the most important factor for a good Christmas is being able to spend time with family, an option that is still on the table for now.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal promised last week that people in France could celebrate the holiday season “without reintroducing any restrictions due to the variant” before immediately clarifying that the current rules could be changed if necessary. A meeting of the Covid Defense Council will be held on Monday to see if this continues.

A flexible attitude toward this year’s Christmas plans, anywhere in the world, might be the wisest approach.

“We need to accept this new reality of living with the virus and learn to accept uncertainty as a fact of life,” said Black. Despite the inevitable sadness that can come with a shortened Christmas season, she advised us to “focus on the moment and gratitude for what we have in our lives.”