As Economy Slowly Recovers, New Study Shows Americans Expect Much Higher Stress Levels This Holiday Season than Last Year

Dec 02, 2009, 08:00 ET from Caron Treatment Centers

Nationwide Breakthrough at Caron Poll Explores Stresses and Challenges People Anticipate This Holiday Season and Offers Tools for Coping

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- From family conflict to anxiety about not being able to buy gifts for everyone on their list, women and men are more stressed about the 2009 holiday season than last year, according to a new study commissioned by Breakthrough at Caron, a five-and-a-half day intensive wellness program designed for adults seeking to break unhealthy life patterns. Breakthrough at Caron is part of Caron Treatment Centers, a 52-year-old nonprofit addiction treatment center located in Pennsylvania.

The survey, "Holiday Stress Index" was commissioned by Breakthrough at Caron and conducted by Harris Interactive. This online omnibus poll was based on a nationwide sample of 2,173 adults in the U.S. aged eighteen years and over. Based upon survey findings and the institution's vast experience with this issue, a package of free educational materials and tips was developed and can be viewed at

In general, 90% of the respondents said they experience some level of stress and/or anxiety about the holiday season. However this year more than a third (38 percent) said they expect to feel more stress and anxiety this holiday season due to the current economy.

"One problem is that we have gotten away from the most important part of the holiday season -- the connection with those we love," said Ann W. Smith, Executive Director of Breakthrough at Caron. "People think that spending money and buying gifts is a substitute for intimacy. Ironically, our study indicates that, given a choice, most would prefer family intimacy and connection as opposed to material goods."

Family Conflict at the Holidays

77% of respondents who attend family holiday gatherings said their family experiences conflict during holiday gatherings. The reasons why people continue to spend time with family during the holidays despite conflict included:

  • 50% because they still want a connection to their family even though they have problems
  • 28% work hard to make their family feel good so things will go more smoothly
  • 25% keep hoping their family will change for the better

Excitement Mixed with Anxiety

On the positive side, of more than two-thirds of those who attend family holiday gatherings 68% say they generally enjoy the quality time spent with family during the holidays. However, 23% feel an obligation to participate in family activities, and 21% think there is too much emphasis on gift-giving and not enough on meaningful relationships. Among those for who the upcoming holidays cause anxiety, most of the anxiety was around gift giving and over half (56 percent) indicated being "strapped" for cash during holiday gift giving.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 41% are anxious about not being able to purchase gifts for everyone on their list
  • 30% feel anxiety about shopping for the "perfect" present
  • 28% are anxious about dealing with family conflicts

"It's very easy to get swept into the commercial holiday frenzy," said Smith. "People often spend money they really don't have and make commitments because they think saying 'no' is not an option."

Dealing (or Not) with Conflicts

Sadly, over one-third (36 percent) of those who experience conflict at family holiday gatherings said their family tries to ignore the issues and hope they will go away. The survey reveals women are more likely to say that their family takes this route than men (41 percent vs. 29 percent).

Other key findings include:

  • 28% always/often put on a "happy face" to make the holiday better for their immediate family
  • 28% say their family keeps quiet and address the issue(s) later
  • 22% indicate that their family confronts the issue(s) immediately when conflict arises

Free Information and Resources

As part of Caron's ongoing commitment to public education, the organization has developed free tip sheets and other tools to help address some of these holiday stress and family relationship issues. For more information, visit

(Note: Full Harris Poll available to news media upon request)

About Breakthrough

Breakthrough at Caron is a groundbreaking residential five-and-a-half day program specifically designed for adults impacted by family or relationship dysfunction in childhood or adult life. This program is held on Caron's main campus in Wernersville, PA. Although a referral from a therapist is not required, this program is intended as an addition to outpatient counseling where individuals may address and release emotional pain from years of living in painful family systems. Groups are co-ed and are limited to 10-12 people per group. The program has been designed by Ann Smith, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Pennsylvania, who supervises and oversees clinical work. Experiential techniques, lecture and play are all important components of the program. To learn more about Breakthrough at Caron log onto

About Caron Treatment Centers

Caron Treatment Centers is a nationally recognized non-profit provider of alcohol and drug addiction treatment. With more than 50 years in the field, Caron is one of the oldest and largest facilities offering primary, relapse and extended residential treatment for young adults, adults and adolescents, as well as families affected by the disease of addiction. Caron's gender separate and gender specific programs are housed in modern, state-of-the-art facilities. Caron has extensive experience in the treatment of co-occurring psychological/psychiatric disorders within its patient community. Nearly 70 percent of patients at Caron have co-occurring disorders. Caron utilizes research on Recovery For Life from leading institutions such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and The University of Pennsylvania's Treatment Research Institute. Formerly the Caron Foundation, Caron Treatment Centers operates a residential treatment center in Wernersville, in southeastern Pennsylvania; a regional office in Philadelphia; Caron Renaissance, an extended care treatment center in Boca Raton, Florida; and recovery centers in New York City and Bermuda. For more information visit or


Harris Interactive(R) fielded the study on behalf of Caron Treatment Centers from October 27-29, 2009, via its QuickQuery(SM) online omnibus service, interviewing a nationwide sample of 2,173 U.S. adults aged 18 and over. Data were weighted to be representative of the total U.S. adult population on the basis of region, age within gender, education, household income, race/ethnicity, and propensity to be online. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available on request.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is a global leader in custom market research. With a long and rich history in multimodal research, powered by its science and technology, Harris Interactive assist clients in achieving business results. Harris Interactive serves clients globally through its North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms. For more information, please visit

SOURCE Caron Treatment Centers