Christmas music is one of the staples of the festive period, as new and old songs battle for prominence over the holidays.
For some, hearing a Christmas song puts them in the festive spirit, while others find them deeply irritating.
A common claim at this time of year is about the impact festive tunes can have on people’s mental health.
Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it Half True.
Music has been associated with the Christmas period for more than a thousand years. Early hymns associated with the celebration such as Jesus Refulsit Omnium (‘Jesus illuminates all’ in English) and Corde Natus Ex Parentis are thought to have been written in the 4th century.
Christmas carols became popular in the Victorian times, although some can be traced back to the middle ages. Around this time secular songs about Christmas also began to be written, such as the Twelve Days of Christmas, which got its familiar tune in the early 1900s.
Nowadays, Christmas music is enormously financially successful, with the most popular songs selling millions of copies in the UK, and the annual Christmas number one single campaign continues to draw significant publicity, despite falling sales.
The UberFacts claim that too much Christmas music can have a negative effect on your mental health comes from an article in the Independent.
This article quoted a psychologist called Linda Blair speaking to Sky News in 2017 about the impact of Christmas music on shopworkers where it is regularly played.
She said: “People working in the shops at Christmas have to learn how to tune… out Christmas music because if they don’t, it really does make you unable to focus on anything else.
“You are simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.”
In another interview with the BBC, Blair stressed there had been “no research on the impacts of Christmas music specifically”.
The impact of Christmas music is also affected by our memories, and whether we associate the Christmas period with good or bad things.
“There is always an emotional reaction to music depending on our memories,” Blair told the BBC. “So that means if you play songs people associate with difficulties in their past, they’ll have a negative reaction to it. And of all music, Christmas probably gives the strongest of those reactions.”
If Christmas is associated with grief or anxiety, then festive music can act as an emotional trigger.
According to Patient, a health information website, it is possible that Christmas music can compound feelings of stress around the holiday season.
“When there is so much pressure, the tunes can be a reminder of all the money and family stresses,” said Counsellor Dee Johnson.
This is not the case for everyone. For many, Christmas music is a positive experience. Listening to music you enjoy releases dopamine, which makes you feel good. There is strong evidence for the link between listening to music you enjoy and mental wellbeing.
Music can also help to reduce stress, and increase your ability to connect with others, through the release of chemicals such as cortisol, serotonin and oxytocin.
There is also evidence to suggest music can have a positive impact on fatigue, anxiety and even managing pain.
Ferret Fact Service verdict: Half True
Being forced to listen to constant Christmas music might have a negative impact on your mental health, and festive tunes could trigger existing negative associations with Christmas. However, Christmas music could have benefits for those who enjoy it, as music has been found to help with mental and physical health in a number of scientific studies.
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