Millennials are twice as likely as people aged 65 and over to have no one to spend Christmas with, the UK’s leading mental health charity has warned.
Research from Mind found that one in 10 people aged 25 to 34 has no one to spend Christmas with, compared to one in 20 people over the age of 65.
This, as well as financial stress and pressure to be social throughout December, is having a negative impact on millennials’ mental health.
The figures suggest those in this age bracket are the most likely to consider taking their own lives as a direct result of the festive period.
The poll of more than 2,000 people also found that almost half of millennials worry about their finances at Christmas, compared to only one in five older people.
Overall, millennials were consistently among the age groups most likely to respond negatively to the festive period, while older people were consistently among those least likely.
The weight of expectation around personal achievement seemed to have a particularly negative impact on 25 to 34-year-olds, with a third dwelling on things they failed to achieve in the year, compared to one in 10 older people.
Most worryingly is the fact that millennials are most likely of all age groups to keep their worries to themselves, with one in 10 saying they wouldn’t want to ask for help over the festive period for fear of what other people would think of them.
Not seeking support can lead to more serious problems developing, Mind warned, and the research also found millennials were the most likely to consider taking their own lives directly because of the festive period (one in 12 people).
Caitlin Maggs, 24, falls just outside of the millennials age range, but says she finds Christmas a particularly difficult time of year.
She’s suffered from depression, anxiety and OCD since the age of 18 and finds her illnesses “always get worse in December”.
“Every year, there is extra pressure to be happy, to have love surround you – and for me, it feels the loneliest because of this,” she says.
“I feel myself weighed down, low and unable to enjoy any of the festivities and joy.
“The media create this perfect vision of a family Christmas – and it’s an ideal that has hung over me and made me very miserable in response.”
Michelle Lloyd, 31, also finds her mental health is negatively affected by the season.
“There are so many different reasons why I find Christmas difficult,” she says in a blog on The Huffington Post UK.
“There’s the crippling sense of loss; knowing that some of the people who used to make it really sparkle are no longer around and missing them so much it hurts.
“There’s the painful memories of growing up, parents splitting up and the beginnings of my anxiety disorder that instantly punch me in the face as soon as I arrive back home.
“And then there’s the knowledge that you’ve gone way over budget with your Christmas shopping and that your next pay cheque is far, far away at the back end of January.”
Mind’s research identified social media as playing a key role in setting expectations around Christmas, with 18 to 34-year-olds most likely to feel pressure to present their Christmas on social media and compare it to others’.
This pressure is something Lloyd knows all too well.
“We see these seemingly perfect pictures of people having fun and enjoying themselves and we compare it with our own lives and are instantly left with a feeling of hopelessness,” she says.
“I’ve lost count of the times I’ve staged the perfect picture – Christmas tree lights twinkling in the background, perfectly wrapped presents under the tree, glass of Prosecco in hand with a Santa hat.
“The reality of course is that whilst attempting to wrap said presents I’ve had countless meltdowns and have actually spent the day curled up in a ball on the sofa wishing the world would go away. It’s a distorted reality and it’s so important we remember that.”
Both Lloyd and Maggs recommend looking at the information on Mind’s website or calling their support line if you’re finding this year difficult.
“Feeling lost and at breaking point, I found Mind’s info line on their website and reached out. I needed to hear another human voice to talk sense to me, and just listen,” Maggs says.
“The lady who answered my call was incredibly friendly and informative. She was able to relate instantly and empathise with my seemingly unique thoughts and feelings of self-harm. We talked through what help I could get, and where I could go. She provided me with all the numbers and addresses I would need.”
The pair then discussed methods of distraction and ended up chatting about art therapy.
“I picked up my pen and began several weeks of illustration – making a series of Christmas Cards for my family members,” says Maggs.
“I felt so much calmer and grounded when I drew.”
The conversation over Christmas completely changed Maggs’ life and she now works as a freelance PR, writer and blogger.
“Now, I try to keep mindful and creative when my mental health is suffering,” she says.
“I find myself able to keep a handle more on my mental health now I have a creative outlet that earns a living. I can’t thank Mind Info line enough for their direction.”
Mind is urging people to donate to their Christmas Appeal, so they can be there for everyone who needs them this Christmas. Visit mind.org.uk/ourchristmas for more information.