Do Women Suffer More from Stress During the Holidays?

The holidays are stressful for many people, but the American Psychological Association (APA) says that women’s stress levels spike more dramatically than men’s in the Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year’s period. According to the APA, women are more prone to stress all year long, but the holidays add to the problem in several ways:

Finances

Finances are always a big contributor to stress, but the APA says that women worry more than men about having to spend it to buy holiday gifts. A survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research shows that lower income families feel this pressure most intensely because of the tendency to overspend to meet perceived expectations, but it affects women at all economic levels.

Increased Workload

Women tend to take on more added work than men for shopping, planning, hosting celebrations, and other holiday-related activities. This gets added to their usual household responsibilities and outside jobs.

Emotional Eating and Drinking

The APA found that women often turn to emotional eating or drinking alcohol to cope with holiday stress. This adds to their stress levels if the drinking is excessive or if the eating promotes weight gain or has other unhealthy consequences.

Women tend to use food as a coping mechanism for stress throughout the year, which ties into one potential reason why they feel more stressed than men. The APA says that males use techniques like exercise to fight their stress, and physical activity is much more effective at stress reduction than consuming extra calories. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that exercise is as effective as drugs for reducing stress in some people, but 35 percent of the women told the APA that they exercise once a week or less.

Women are also more likely than men to value family relationships. This means they feel a greater impact from family turmoil that often comes up during the holidays.

Coping with Stress

While research proves that women get more stressed out during the holiday season, they have some advantages over men for coping. Their stress management techniques are frequently linked to socializing with other people, which puts them in a good position to reach out for support and help. Women can more easily talk to others about their feelings and ask for assistance when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Getting assistance goes a long way for reducing women’s stress. The APA study found that women are more likely to cite a lack of willpower as a barrier to making healthful changes in their lives. A quarter of those women said that getting help around the house would help them boost that willpower. With increased household responsibilities during the holidays, women need that support even more.

The holidays will always be stressful for both genders, but when women understand why they shoulder a disproportionate share of that stress, they’re able to negate the causes. Controlling finances, asking for help, and maintaining healthy habits are all keys to closing the gender gap.