Nearly 1 in 3 Adults Report the Holidays Create Greater Mental Health Challenges, Particularly Feelings of Isolation, Stress and Anxiety, Says New Research from Caron Treatment Centers

U.S. adults describe workplace pressure, emotional and physical consequences from drinking alcohol, and social media avoidance during the holidays, new poll finds

Dec 09, 2015, 08:47 ET from Caron Treatment Centers

WERNERSVILLE, Pa., Dec. 9, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The holidays are an upbeat time for many. However, for many others, they can lead to stress and anxiety, workplace pressure, and potentially dangerous consequences from substance use, according to a new national survey. The online survey, commissioned by Caron Treatment Centers, a leading not-for-profit provider of addiction and behavioral healthcare treatment, and conducted by Harris Poll among 2,018 U.S. adults, reveals the holiday season takes a toll both mentally and physically for many and even prompts public safety concerns.

High Expectations and Perfectionism during the Holidays Can Lead to Disappointment, Increased Anxiety, and Social Media Avoidance

While many adults (70%) say the holidays are their favorite time of year, 30% of adults say compared to other times of the year, the holidays trigger mental health challenges, like anxiety, depression, or isolation. 44% strive for perfection during the holidays and 32% say their high expectations are usually met with disappointment.

38% of Americans note socializing with extended family during the holidays is stressful and for 50% of adults, alcohol plays a role in family holiday gatherings.

The survey also reveals those using social media present their lives as happy and some harbor resentment against others. During the holidays:

  • 68% of adults who use social media tend to only share happy photos/status updates
  • 28% who use social media try to avoid it
  • 41% of young adults (18-34) have been jealous of others' photos on social media

Adults Admit Participating in/Witnessing Unhealthy and Even Life-Threatening Behavior during the Holiday Season

Many adults don't treat their bodies as well during the holidays as they do other times of year. 54% of adults eat more unhealthy foods and 16% drink more alcohol than they typically do. Women appear likelier to eat unhealthy foods, while men are likelier to drink more alcohol (unhealthy foods: men, 48% vs. women, 59%; drink more alcohol: men, 19% vs. women, 13%).

54% of adults who drink alcohol have experienced at least one negative consequence after drinking alcohol during the holidays. Responses include (but aren't limited to):

  • A hangover (37%)
  • A bad headache/migraine (24%)
  • Vomiting (22%)
  • Saying things they later regret (16%)

Many people have also observed others experiencing negative/potentially dangerous consequences after drinking too much, including:

  • Passing out (32%)
  • Blacking out and not remembering what happened (24%)
  • An accident (e.g. falling) (18%)
  • Having sex with someone they wouldn't have if sober (16%)
  • A DUI/DWI charge (13%)
  • A car accident (10%)

"Mental health and addiction issues don't take a holiday," said Dr. Joseph Garbely, Medical Director at Caron Treatment Centers. "For numerous people, this season surfaces many painful issues that can exacerbate behavioral health symptoms. We want families to know they're not alone. Asking for help can be a critical first step."  

Alcohol Use Often Part of Workplace Culture

22% of adults who've attended workplace holiday parties have felt pressure to drink either to fit in, because their boss encouraged them, or to feel more relaxed. 85% believe it's appropriate to drink at a work holiday party and 17% say it's appropriate for someone to drink as much as they can handle as long as they're not drinking on an empty stomach and/or driving.

Of those who attended workplace holiday parties, 11% experience physical/social effects from drinking, including: headache, vomiting, passing out, needing to apologize to colleagues, having their behavior negatively impacting their standing at work, people posting embarrassing photos/videos of them online that were taken while they were drunk, or getting drunk quickly from mixing alcohol with medicine.

Men appear likelier than women to use alcohol as a crutch to survive holiday work events (26% vs. 18% feeling internal/external pressure, respectively). Subsequently, they're also likelier to experience negative consequences. Men are likelier than women to say it's appropriate for someone to drink "as much as they can handle as long as they're not driving" at a work holiday party (15% vs. 10%). Men are also likelier than women to say they've witnessed the impact alcohol has on someone else during the holiday season.

  • Men who've attended a workplace holiday party are likelier than women to report their boss encouraged them to drink (10% vs. 6%) and they've consumed more alcohol than they wanted because it's part of workplace culture (10% vs. 5%).
  • 8% of adults have attempted to restrict their own behavior due to past negative experiences drinking alcohol.

"Drinking too much at a workplace party is one of the quickest ways to derail your career," said Doug Tieman, Caron's President and CEO and author of Flying Over the Pigpen: Leadership Lessons from Growing Up on a Farm. "With competitive workplaces and the increased use of smart phones, you have to be mindful of your behavior at any company event; the holidays are no different. If you find that despite your best efforts you can't stop drinking, I encourage you to seek help as soon as possible. Take responsibility and you may prevent devastating consequences."

The holidays can be a time of joy and celebration, but many are also struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. To learn more about signs and symptoms that may indicate you or someone you know may need help, visit or follow us on Twitter: @CaronTreatment.

Caron Treatment Centers
For nearly 60 years, Caron Treatment Centers operates lifesaving addiction and behavioral healthcare treatment. Caron is headquartered in Wernersville, Pennsylvania with Ocean Drive and Caron Renaissance located in Palm Beach County, Florida. Caron has Recovery Centers in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., which offer community and recovery support. Caron's Recovery Centers in Atlanta and New York City also offer pre- and post-treatment services. Caron has the most extensive continuum of care including adolescents, young adults, adults and seniors. Caron's treatment is customized to meet the needs of individuals and families – with highly trained teams prepared to address co-occurring disorders. Caron offers an innovative approach to ongoing recovery care support for its former patients and their families with online peer groups and other resources during the first year of transition following discharge. For more information on Caron, please visit or follow us on Twitter.


This survey was conducted online within the US by Harris Poll on behalf of Caron Treatment Centers between November 5-9, 2015 among 2,018 U.S. adults. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted, where necessary, to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability (random) sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, the words "margin of error" are avoided as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.


SOURCE Caron Treatment Centers