Is Christmas a time of magic, generosity and conviviality? Or of overconsumption, stress, and social anxiety? It is easy to make a case either way: listen to Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmas Time, followed immediately by Tom McRae’s slow sighing cover of the song and hear the same lyrics convey backslapping cheer and solitary despair. McCartney and McRae illustrate the dilemma, but they do not resolve it. For that, we need data, so I consulted some academics on the slippery subject of “subjective wellbeing”, or as you or I would call it, “happiness”. Two years ago, wellbeing researchers at the London School of Economics surveyed a panel of experts, asking them: “Do you think that populations on average have higher wellbeing during major festive periods like Christmas?” None of the respondents was particularly confident, but the verdict was that Christmas is a time for good cheer: 54% thought that Christmas increased average wellbeing, with 18% disagreeing and the rest sitting on...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, Morningstar financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Times Select.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.



Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@businesslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.