Another Year of Christmas Cheer… OR IS IT?

Wow, another year has nearly passed us by and with Christmas on the horizon it was time to find out whether Australians continue to feel stressed about the silly season. According to the latest Christmas Stress Index (CSI*) score, it appears we are.

The CSI was originally developed by data scientists Nulink Analytics and has been conducted together with Di Marzio Research for the last five years. The CSI elicits a stress score based on eight attitudinal statements to determine the level of stress being experienced by Australians in the lead up to Christmas.

This year’s research was conducted a couple of weeks earlier than in the past which may explain why the overall CSI score of 51 was one of the lower scores recorded, however it remains in the ‘high stress’ category.

Christmas Stree Index

This year we undertook a detailed segmentation analysis revealing three distinct groups which we named…
1. Too much, too soon
2. It will be ok on the day
3. Go with the flow

The ‘too much, too soon’ segment is the largest group (comprising 38% of the sample) and it displays the highest levels of stress (CSI of 53.4).

Distinguishing demographic characteristics include 60% females, 42% Generation X and 76% couples with children at home.

Anxiety for them appears to stem from how quickly Christmas is approaching and the associated costs. For most (58%) Christmas is coming on much too fast this year’ (58%) and even more do not ‘feel like they have the costs associated with Christmas well under control this year’ (62%). More than four in ten (44%) are ‘worried about the expense of Christmas this year’.

The ‘It will be ok on the day’ segment is the least stressed with a CSI of 49. They appear relatively laid back about the occasion with most (68%) “not at all worried about Christmas and the Christmas season this year – it always seems to work out OK”. Costs aren’t as much of concern either with only 29% ‘worried about the expense of Christmas this year’ and half agree ‘they have the costs associated with Christmas well under control’. This group contains a higher incidence of males (58%) and older age demographics (73% baby boomers and 63% empty nesters). Dare we say that many leave much of Christmas up to the women in their lives.

Those who ‘Go with the flow’ resembled the overall average with a CSI score of 50. Here we find an even gender split and a younger age profile (66% in Generations Y or Z with 71% single, never married).

Hence families (particularly mothers) with young children and older parents emerge as the most stressed especially compared to those in the earlier and later life cycle stages.

Stressed Lady at Christmas

Although this survey didn’t probe further to determine the specific causes, I asked two experienced researchers for their reactions.

According to Kim Di Marzio (Director of Di Marzio Research with nearly 40 years’ research experience and many Christmases under his belt)…

“For many people, Christmas is not something they look forward to in the same way as when they were children, teenagers or young adults without many responsibilities. In those more carefree days, Christmas represented the end of a year of commitments and obligations, and an opportunity to have fun, switch off and do things or go places that are the exception rather than the rule of their life. However, after those life cycle stages, Christmas tends to bring more pressures and responsibilities needing to be met with a deadline attached. This impacts their ability to associate Christmas with a time for relaxation, recharging and joy.”

Scott Maclean (Director of Nulink Analytics, into his fourth decade of working in research and having experienced even more Christmases) says…

“To me, the real stresses of Christmas are deciding who is going to ‘do’ the big lunch this year, where, and how are we going to get aged grandparents there and be able to look after them. The rest of it’s easy in comparison. But I certainly appreciate that’s not the same for everyone, hence (in part!) the original idea for the Index.”

Nevertheless, in the lead up to Christmas and throughout the day it’s important to keep in mind what it’s all about. An opportunity to enjoy time with family and friends over a good meal while reflecting on the year just gone, hopefully with plenty of laughs and cheers.

We we’re pleased to have this article published as a feature in the latest edition of Research News by the Australian Market and Social Research Society (AMSRS).  You can find it here

Kim, Paul and Scott would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas (hopefully without to much stress).


* The Christmas Stress Index was originally developed by Nulink Analytics in 2012, following anecdotal evidence that “things are not as they used to be” in the lead-up to the Christmas season.

Eight statements concerning attitudes to the Christmas season were devised, with responses being measured on a 5-point agree/disagree scale.

The index itself is computed as a weighted combination of the responses obtained and are rescaled as a score of 0 to 100. Four categories of stress were defined – low (25 or under), medium (26-49), high (50-74) or very high (75+).

Detailed analysis of the Index by different socio-economic and demographic sub-groups confirms its appropriateness as a reflection of underlying feelings regarding Christmas, and the stress associated with this time of the year.


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