Sending Christmas cards linked with lower depression, study finds

People with depression may struggle with the Christmas holiday — a festive period often associated with parties and social engagement. Yet, a new study finds that those who get into the holiday spirit by sending out Christmas cards may actually have lower levels of depression. 

Published last month in the journal Cogent Psychology, the study examined whether the sending of Christmas cards offered insight into the sender’s mental well-being.

From a survey completed by more than 2,400 participants within the United Kingdom, researchers at the University of Limerick in Ireland examined whether higher depressive symptoms were associated with the frequency of sending Christmas cards and whether this varied by religious affiliation. 

They found that a higher percentage (54.5%) of those without depressive symptoms reported "always" sending Christmas cards, compared to 46% of those with depressive symptoms.


Holiday cards sit in a bin at the U.S. Post Office December 17, 2007 in San Francisco, California. With one week until Christmas, the U.S. Postal Service is expecting to process and mail over one billion cards, letters and packages, far more than the

Stephen Gallagher, a lead author of the study, told FOX the results were specifically significant for Christians, after adjusting for religious affiliation. 

Christians with depression (20%) were more likely to "never" send Christmas cards, while those who were not depressed were more likely (53%) to "always" send them. 

Other studies have found that gestures of expressing gratitude in letters and cards can boost positive emotions in both the receiver and sender.

"If you normally receive a Christmas card from someone each year, it might be worth checking in with them if you do not receive a card this year," Gallagher shared. 

According to a YouGov survey, the exchange of Christmas cards increased in 2020 after years of decline — likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The data indicated that over half (55%) of participating adults in the UK believed that sending Christmas cards to loved ones was more important in 2020 than ever. Three-quarters of participants (75%) also agreed that sending a Christmas card was a more meaningful way of letting loved ones know that they were thinking of them than a social media message or text.

Christmas impacts mental health

A recent survey from 2019 found that while Christmas is a happy time for many, more than a quarter of people surveyed said it made their mental health worse. 

In the poll, feeling low around Christmas was especially common among people who are unemployed (38%), divorced (35%) or widowed (31%).

Lisa Boucher of Kettering, Ohio, a former psychiatric registered nurse and now a best-selling author, shared with FOX News Digital advice for fighting stress this holiday season.

"Most of the problem is our expectations, such as certain expectations of how the holiday should go, and how the family should act and react," Boucher, 62, said. "I always tell women and men: Anxiety lives in the future. So if you can bring yourself back to the present moment, there is usually not a lot of anxiety there."

She continued: "We have to stop letting other people's expectations drive our behavior. You don't have to add 40 different [traditions] in the same year."

This story was reported from Los Angeles.