Wellbeing and Public Holidays

Do you think that populations on average have higher wellbeing during major festive periods like Christmas?

  •  Professor Wenceslao  UnanueProfessor Wenceslao Unanue
    Neither agree nor disagree
    The answer depends on several factors. For example, Kasser & Sheldon (2002) found that when intrinsic activities (e.g. family relationships) were more prominent, more happiness was reported during Christmas time. However, when more extrinsic and materialistic activities were more salient (e.g. consumption and money spending), less happiness was reported. Therefore, if we want to have a happier Christmas, we should try to spend our time with our close ones instead of visiting shopping centers.

  •  Professor Nick  PowdthaveeProfessor Nick Powdthavee
    Neither agree nor disagree
    Not necessarily. Whilst it is natural to assume that populations on average will have higher wellbeing during major festive periods (as most people get time off work to spend it with their loved ones), we know from research that emotional stress levels tend to be significantly higher in the run up to some major holidays, especially Christmas. This is reflected in the evidence in Los Angeles (where the weather is pretty mild all year round) that the number of deaths from cardiac arrest tend to start increasing around Thanksgiving, climbing through Christmas, peaks on New Year's day, and then falling (Kloner, 2004). Also, the high expectations we have for these periods that are not often met can also put a damper on our overall wellbeing as well. See: Kloner, R.A., 2004. The ?merry Christmas coronary? and ?happy New Year heart attack? phenomenon. Circulation, 110(25), pp.3744-3745.

  •  Doctor Daniel  BenjaminDoctor Daniel Benjamin
    Agree
    Festive periods such as Christmas are occasions for spending more time with family and friends, which is an important contributor to self-reported happiness. And many people look forward to these periods, suggesting that they are enjoyable.

  •  Professor Ada  Ferrer-i-CarbonnellProfessor Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonnell
    Neither agree nor disagree
    Although on average happiness seems to be higher during festive days, as the Gallup surveys have consistently showed over the years, it is also true that evidence points to the fact that the Christmas period might also be stressful and unhappy. While in festive days such as Thanksgiving, Independence Day, and even Christmas day Americans are on average happier (Gallup), the whole Christmas period seems to be rather stressful. Michael Mutz (2015) empirically shows that, except for Christian individuals with a high degree of religiousness, the Christmas period is associated, at least in Europe, with lower life satisfaction than the rest of the year. The author however cannot distinguish between the festive period and the Christmas day itself. References: Gallup report: http://www.gallup.com/poll/180911/holidays-weekends-americans-happiest-days-year.aspx Michael Mutz (2015): http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11482-015-9441-8

  •  Professor Leonardo  BechettiProfessor Leonardo Bechetti
    Agree
    Yes in general because it is a time where there is more time free from work and it is possible to enjoy social relationship that have a strong positive and significant effect on subjective wellbeing. However, if the relational life is poor Christmas period has the effect of forcing people to focus on their relational life and in such case this can create a negative effect on wellbeing. I however believe that the first effect dominates.

  •  Professor Martin  BinderProfessor Martin Binder
    Disagree
    I would expect any positive effect from a holiday period like Christmas to be small and dependent on whether one is connected to a social network of family and friends at the time. It probably also depends on whether we see this as an occasion to get a lot of presents (consumerist/materialist values aren't strongly conducive to SWB) or whether we think about others less fortunate at this time and send some money to charity or donate some of our time for a good cause as a Christmas present.

  •  Professor Ruut  VeenhovenProfessor Ruut Veenhoven
    Agree
    Depends on definition of 'well-being'. In some objective senses the statement is almost true by definition (more contact, free time, religion). Subjective well-being in the sense of mood will be a bit higher, but not life-satisfaction. The presence of festive periods in a culture will also add to average life-satisfaction by its indirect effects, e.g. on social capital

  •  Doctor Jan-Emmanuel   De NeveDoctor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve
    Agree
    Although the standard deviation in wellbeing throughout the Christmas period will likely be higher, I expect the average wellbeing to be higher too. This may be due to having (1) a paid holiday and being away from work; and (2) the importance of family ties to wellbeing and this being more salient throughout the Christmas period. In the end, this is an empirical question, and the data from sources such as Mappiness would appear to indicate higher wellbeing in this period on average.

  •  Doctor Anna  AlexandrovaDoctor Anna Alexandrova
    Neither agree nor disagree
    I chose 'neither agree nor disagree' because i have not done the surveying myself, nor seen the data of others on this question. But on the basis of what we know already I would expect several effects working at the same time: on the positive side holidays is the time when people engage in communal activities generally with people from their preferred social circle and family, perhaps increased perception of meaningfulness for religious people or for those who engage in seasonal charity and volunteering; but on the negative side there are heightened social comparisons brought about by increased consumption. I don't believe we know know enough to say which effect is stronger and the experience of the holiday season is likely to vary a great deal among different groups.

  •  Professor Dan  HaybronProfessor Dan Haybron
    Agree
    I don't recall any research directly on this question, but I would expect higher wellbeing during major festive periods. This is in part because they tend to have a strong social component, such as celebrations with others, and because people's attention is likely to be focused on the positive aspects of the holiday--the pleasures of anticipation, for example. Common holiday activities, like singing or dancing, also tend to boost wellbeing. At the same time, there will sometimes be individuals who experience lower wellbeing, especially if someone is lonely and the holiday exacerbates feelings of isolation. In other cases individuals might associate the holiday with bad past events, such as the loss of a loved one. A further risk is that expectations of happiness may be higher during holidays, so disappointment may sometimes be higher. For example, some research suggests that people with higher expectations for New Year's Eve tend to enjoy it less. Stress may also result from the demands of certain holidays, for instance needing money for gifts, or fighting crowds to get the shopping done in time. But I expect the benefits will outweigh the negatives, on average.

  •  Professor Peter  SingerProfessor Peter Singer
    Agree
    I suggest three reasons: Festivals provide a break from routine, and the break is perceived positively, so that typically leads to higher wellbeing. Festivals are a time for people to be with friends and family, and that too usually leads to higher wellbeing. There is good research showing that thinking of others, and giving to others, leads to higher wellbeing, and many festivals involve that.

  •  Professor Bruno  FreyProfessor Bruno Frey
    Agree
    Christmas and other festive periods provide a change from normal activities. Most people take the opportunity to meet relatives and friends. It is known from happiness research that having more intensive personal contacts raises life satisfaction.

  •  Professor Alois  StutzerProfessor Alois Stutzer
    Agree
    High frequency well-being data for the US reflect lower levels of stress narrowly around Christmas.

  •  Professor Heinz  WelschProfessor Heinz Welsch
    Disagree
    The answer depends on what "populations" and what "major festive periods" are in the focus. Concerning populations of "western" countries and the Christmas season, there is a lot of stress involved in the preparation etc. In addition, poorer people may become more aware of material deprivation in the face of massive commercial advertisement. This may be particularly salient in materialistically oriented people. It is therefore questionable whether wellbeing is higher on average during the Christmas season.

  •  Professor Arie  KapteynProfessor Arie Kapteyn
    Agree
    Just google it and the New York Times comes up: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/12/23/why-arent-people-happier-during-the-holidays/we-are-happier-on-the-holidays :) But to be honest, I have not researched this.

  •  Professor Ori  HeffetzProfessor Ori Heffetz
    Agree
    People do report higher affective wellbeing during weekends. Unless overcome by festive-period stress, I'd guess they feel better during festive periods too.

  •  Professor Elizabeth  DunnProfessor Elizabeth Dunn
    Disagree
    Although festive periods like Christmas are supposed to bring joy, the existing research sheds some doubt on the assumption that these periods will inevitably be marked by increased well-being. Analyzing data from 11 European countries, Michael Mutz (2015) found that people reported lower life satisfaction and less positive mood around the Christmas holidays than during other parts of the year. Other research, with a smaller sample of Americans, suggests that people are likely to derive greater happiness from Christmas if they focus on its social and spiritual side, rather than its materialistic side (Kasser & Sheldon, 2002). My own work demonstrates that human beings around the world derive happiness from spending money on others (Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2014), suggesting that festivals such as Christmas may promote well-being to the extent that they spur generosity. My takeaway message is this: Festivals like Christmas won?t automatically enhance happiness, but we may able to maximize the benefits for well-being my focusing on these festivals as an opportunity to connect with and help others.

  •  Professor Richard  EasterlinProfessor Richard Easterlin
    Neither agree nor disagree
    Depends on the measure. If a measure of temporary mood, yes; if an evaluative measure of life circumstances, no.

  •  Professor Mariano  RojasProfessor Mariano Rojas
    Disagree
    Christmas has become a time for shopping. Christmas presents provide a very short well-being impact -mostly an affective impact that lasts a few minutes, but the credit-card debts last for many months. A materialistic society is promoted during Christmas and the main end of advertising is estimulating people to spend in many things they may not need. Furthermore, the proliferation of gifts implies that people cannot enjoy everything they get. I have to remind readers to Linder's time-constraint problem: People have many gifts but no more time to enjoy them; thus, there is diminishing attention on these gifts and, as a consequence, less well-being from each product is attained. In addition, the focus on purchasing and on gifts deviates attention from important relational matters. Of course, there is always people who can attain high wellbeing in Christmas, but this happen because they do things that they can also do anytime of the year; such as relating with friends and family or using their free time to pursue their own hobbies and goals. There is nothing relevant in Christmas that makes me thing about a substantial increase in people's well-being.

  •  Doctor Chris  Barrington-LeighDoctor Chris Barrington-Leigh
    Neither agree nor disagree
    Major festive periods have both extra supports and extra challenges for wellbeing, so I think this question must be answered empirically and, most importantly, does not relate strongly to the next question. There is some evidence that the high salience of materialism at Christmas (in particular) predicts lower well-being. Also in contrast to the obvious benefits of social and family time can come an extra feeling of isolation for those who are weak on those supports. Speculatively, that would be an instance of reference effects in the social domain.

  •  Professor Jan  DelheyProfessor Jan Delhey
    Agree
    As many people in post-industrial societies feel quite a lot of pressure from modern work life, festive periods may be a welcome diversion from the normal "rat race". Public holidays provide an opportunity to suspend the hectic rush at least for a few days. Further, spending time with beloved ones is known to be good for well-being. Yet there is one imminent danger: in partnerships and families which are conflictuous, spending more time together might mean more time to argue. For the population overall, however, I expect the emotional balance sheet of festive periods to be positive.

  •  Doctor Esteban  CalvoDoctor Esteban Calvo
    Disagree
    Major festive periods are likely to influence well-being, as they interrupt our daily routines and create a ritual opportunity to enjoy life with our loved ones. However, festivities also entail enormous social pressures that can damage well-being for some. Because changes in well-being could go in opposite directions, I wouldn't expect to see an average increase in well-being for the population.

  •  Professor Shigehiro  OishiProfessor Shigehiro Oishi
    Neither agree nor disagree
    During major festive periods, people on average could be in a better mood than other times. Thus, populations on average *could* have higher well-being. However, empirical research (e.g., Eid & Diener, 2004) found surprisingly small effects of moods on general life satisfaction. A recent study on weather and life satisfaction (Lucas & Lawless, 2013) also found a very small weather effect on life satisfaction. Another reason to doubt the Christmas effect is that some people really love Christmas but others do not. The holiday season is also stressful for a number of reasons (e.g., buying gifts, having to travel). Thus, my guess is that populations on average do not have higher well-being during major festive periods like Christmas than non-festive periods.

  •  Professor John  HelliwellProfessor John Helliwell
    Agree
    In places where there are surveys that can catch daily effects, people are more likely to feel happy on weekends and statutory holidays. There are no corresponding effects for life evaluations, and appropriately so, since the life evaluations relate to lilife in general, and not a specific day. (For the related evidence, see http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/jhelliwell/papers/Helliwell-Wang-SIR2013.pdf).

  •  Professor Paul  FrijtersProfessor Paul Frijters
    Agree
    I looked at the US Galup data, which surveys 500 to 1000 respondents each day since 2008 on the question where they see themselves in the ladder of life. The week of Christmas had higher responses compared to the surrounding week, though December as a whole had lower responses than other months, still suggesting that on average the festive season is indeed, festive.





Do you think on balance that average wellbeing would rise if there were more mandatory public holidays in your country?

  •  Professor Wenceslao  UnanueProfessor Wenceslao Unanue
    Agree
    I think that if all other factors are controlled for, I?d agree with the question. However, several cautions have to be considered: 1. There are two traditions in the well-being (WB) literature: the hedonic and the eudaimonic approaches. Subjective (SWB; positive affect, negative affect, life satisfaction) is the hedonic aspect of WB and basically refers to having pleasure and avoiding pain. Eudaimonic well-being, however, consists of different Aristotelian dimensions such as meaning, relationships, autonomy, and self-realization. Therefore, I'd try to split the effect on both kinds of WB to have a better conclusion. Probably, the hedonic well-being will definitely increase when we stop working (more pleasure and fun). However, the effect on eudaimonic well-being is not 100% clear. Work provides opportunities for meeting people and developed our competences. It is not always bad and a lot of people find happiness when they are at their jobs. For example, there are a lot of lonely people (In Chile we found that almost 30% of the population mention ton feel alone). Therefore, what are we doing with our free time? If we don?t have family and good friends to visit, it could be very sad. In addition, as in the Christmas question, the final effect would depend on whether we spend the free time in intrinsic or extrinsic activities. 2. Finally, when people have more free time (more holidays), they need more money (travelling, shopping/etc.). It is an important factor to consider. If people don't have enough money, or need to ask loans, their well-being would probably decrease.

  •  Professor Nick  PowdthaveeProfessor Nick Powdthavee
    Agree
    On balance, yes, but that also depends what is to be expected from each individual on these more mandatory public holidays. If each individual can be expected to simply spend more time relaxing with friends and family -- and that there will be no other expectations from them (like Christmas) -- then I think having more holidays will do wonders for their overall well-being.

  •  Doctor Daniel  BenjaminDoctor Daniel Benjamin
    Neither agree nor disagree
    More mandatory public holidays would probably make people happier during those periods, but since people would work less, overall economic output would be lower and therefore consumption of material goods would be lower. I am not sure whether the net effect would be to increase or decrease wellbeing.

  •  Professor Ada  Ferrer-i-CarbonnellProfessor Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonnell
    Agree
    Current evidence in the US (Gallup surveys) indicates that the days with a larger percentage of happy individuals are on public holidays, although this is less so for those individuals who like their jobs. Mandatory holidays imply that individuals can enjoy leisure with other people, friends, and family. According to Alesina, Glaeser and Sacerdote (2005), people in countries with more mandatory vacations do seem to be happier, indicating that the returns to leisure increase with more people taking vacations on the same day. Although there could be a saturation point on leisure, it seems that we are not yet there. References: Gallup survey: http://www.gallup.com/poll/180911/holidays-weekends-americans-happiest-days-year.aspx Alesina, Glaeser, and Sacerdote: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11278

  •  Professor Leonardo  BechettiProfessor Leonardo Bechetti
    Agree
    For two reasons. More leisure and more time to invest in and enjoy relational life

  •  Professor Martin  BinderProfessor Martin Binder
    Agree
    -

  •  Professor Ruut  VeenhovenProfessor Ruut Veenhoven
    Agree
    Though people typically enjoy their work, a counterbalance to pressures for ever more work will be helpful, in particular in rich countries like mine

  •  Doctor Jan-Emmanuel   De NeveDoctor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve
    Agree
    The number of paid holidays are associated with increases in wellbeing I believe from my reading of the literature. However, it goes without saying that this is not a linear trend that can be extrapolated infinitely since increasing paid leave implies a trade-off in productivity and income.

  •  Doctor Anna  AlexandrovaDoctor Anna Alexandrova
    Agree
    I would expect yes, the loss of productivity is unlikely to outweigh the positive effect of greater leisure time.

  •  Professor Dan  HaybronProfessor Dan Haybron
    Agree
    In the United States, it is not clear that legislating more holidays would result in an increase in major festivities, as those tend to be tied to cultural traditions and occasions people strongly want to celebrate. But I believe there is good reason to think wellbeing would be enhanced in the US by greater vacation and leisure time, which are relatively low compared to other wealthy countries. Public holidays also serve a coordination function, making it easier for people to get together with friends, family and community than if they simply had more vacation time at work. This may be especially useful in more mobile societies like the US where seeing loved ones often requires travel.

  •  Professor Peter  SingerProfessor Peter Singer
    Agree
    There could be too many public holidays, because they need to be something special, but yes, there could be more than there are in the US at present.

  •  Professor Bruno  FreyProfessor Bruno Frey
    Agree
    In Europe and North America employees spend too much time at work. Reducing work time and increasing leisure time raises life satisfaction; individuals may pursue activities for which they otherwise have too little time, including being with their families and friends.

  •  Professor Alois  StutzerProfessor Alois Stutzer
    Agree
    Public holidays help to coordinate leisure time and leisure activities like social gatherings in social networks. However, public holidays have the tendency to degenerate to shopping sprees.

  •  Professor Heinz  WelschProfessor Heinz Welsch
    Disagree
    I presume (though I am not sure) that the number of mandatory public holidays is relatively high in my country (Germany) and I do not expect average wellbeing to rise if their number were to increase. There is some inter-state variation in the number of religious holidays, and casual empiricism suggests there is rather a negative relationship between state-level life satisfaction and the number of holidays, but there are numerous confounding factors which prevent firm conclusions.

  •  Professor Arie  KapteynProfessor Arie Kapteyn
    Neither agree nor disagree
    People tend to be happier during the weekend, so if we take an additional mandatory holiday as equivalent to an additional weekend day then indeed an extra public holiday would increase happiness.

  •  Professor Ori  HeffetzProfessor Ori Heffetz
    Neither agree nor disagree
    The net effect is not obvious to me. For example, affective wellbeing may rise during the added holidays but may fall during other days.

  •  Professor Elizabeth  DunnProfessor Elizabeth Dunn
    Agree
    Yes. Although increasing material affluence is widely recognized as a pathway to improving well-being, I think many countries (including my home country of Canada) are reaching a tipping point where increasing time affluence may be at least as important. Research from both Turkey and the United States suggests that people who score low on time affluence?reporting that they don?t have enough minutes in the day?are less satisfied with their lives (Burke et al, 2009; Kasser & Sheldon, 2008). Individuals who work more hours score lower in time affluence (Hamermesh & Lee, 2007), and working is associated with relatively negative moods on a day-to-day basis (e.g., Krueger et al, 2008). Instituting more mandatory public holidays provides a potential lever for increasing time affluence, thereby promoting well-being.

  •  Professor Richard  EasterlinProfessor Richard Easterlin
    Completely disagree
    If we're talking about evaluative measures --as we should be-- no.

  •  Professor Mariano  RojasProfessor Mariano Rojas
    Agree strongly
    Having more holidays does not reduces productivity, on the contrary, fresh and rested people who are happy can be more productive and generate the same production in less working hours. Furthermore, holidays allow people to spend more time with family and with friends as well as to pursue their own interests and hobbies.

  •  Doctor Chris  Barrington-LeighDoctor Chris Barrington-Leigh
    Agree strongly
    Working more (or as much) in response to having higher productivity seems to be an important collective action problem for well-being as well as material impacts on the world. Mandatory slowing down of the market-labour race is likely a solution.

  •  Professor Jan  DelheyProfessor Jan Delhey
    Agree
    More mandatory public holidays would mean to have more days to sleep long, to not worry about job-realted deadlines, and to have time for yourself and others. Time and again, research has shown that social capital enhances our well-being, and public holidays are an occassion to connect with others, inside or outside the family. Those who are not part of the workforce may not feel a big difference to a "normal" weekday, however. And the shopping-addicts among us might even suffer from the inconvenience of finding shops closed. But yes, overall a small rise in average wellbeing.

  •  Doctor Esteban  CalvoDoctor Esteban Calvo
    Agree
    Overworking is a common issue in contemporary societies. Mandatory public holidays set aside time for leisure and social activities. Provided that these activities are of good quality, I would expect to observe increases in well-being, at least during or around the holiday. For example, I would expect an increase in well-being during the holiday for people having positive interactions with others in the park, but I wouldn't expect the same for someone who stays alone and binge-watches TV throughout the weekend.

  •  Professor Shigehiro  OishiProfessor Shigehiro Oishi
    Agree
    I think population happiness could increase if there were more holidays. 1. having free time is strongly associated with affective aspects of well-being (Diener et al., 2009, a chapter in "International Differences in Well-Being"), 2. people will have more time with family, friends, and others they like; people tend to be happier when they are with others they like than alone (Csikszentmihalyi & Hunter, 2003).

  •  Professor John  HelliwellProfessor John Helliwell
    Neither agree nor disagree
    Most Canadian provinces tend to have about one statutory holiday per six-weeks. Not much evidence about whether more would be better. Stat holidays pose problems for families with multiple jobs and child care issues. In general more time together with family and friends a real positive, but if it means not making the last crowded ferry home, then the pleasure is diluted. For many families there would be more happiness from an increase in workplace flexibility, thus permitting family holiday to be created when most suitable.

  •  Professor Paul  FrijtersProfessor Paul Frijters
    Agree
    It is a classic argument in the literature on happiness and wellbeing that individuals are strongly affected by relative considerations and that we are thus locked into a status race whereby we work to hard to afford what the neighbours can afford. Mandatory holidays break this status race and forces individuals into taking more leisure and spending more time with family and friends, which I expect to improve wellbeing, particularly since our societies are so rich that the extra production is not really needed.