Friday, November 28, 2014

The Day After Thanksgiving

Seasonal changes, holidays and shopping activities are among the environmental factors that can influence our health. What positive or negative effects can we expect on Black Friday and days right after?

The Friday-after-Thanksgiving was coined "Black" by police officers because of the fact that the traffic on the day after Thanksgiving is usually heavy and crowds are large. And they were right. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration & CDC, Thanksgiving is the most dangerous holiday of the year for drivers.

November is also one of the most financially stressful months. But stress is not always bad. The only stock market crash that happened the day after Thanksgiving (November 27, 2009) was in Dubai and did not affect global markets as much as "Black Fridays" in September and May of 1800s. What about the more common stress after Thanksigiving associated with holiday spending?

For retailers, "Black Friday" marks the transition from "red" to "black", indicating the start of Christmas Shopping Season. Should not this fact alone improve our mood and make us feel better? It definitely should. And researchers agree.

Even though there are many reasons not to participate in Black Friday, shopping can be good for you. It makes you burn calories, and feel happier. According to a recent study by Rick and colleagues, people often shop when they feel sad and making shopping decisions reduces their "residual sadness" as it restores a sense of personal control. Previous research, too, points that shopping can translate into rise of dopamine and activities of brain regions responsible for pleasure and positive thinking.

November is a great month for comforting food - and we do gain on average a pound after Thanksgiving. But it's also a great month for outdoors, bird watching, getting together and reflecting on the good things. According to academics, even people considering suicide are less likely to do it on or right after Thanksgiving Holidays. A paper from the 40s suggests we might be also a bit less sharp mentally (compared to the spring), but your brain does need some downtime. Mental breaks can increase productivity and creativity. Enjoy your holidays. Life only gets better after Thanksgiving.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2001). Reducing the risk for injury while traveling for Thanksgiving holidays. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 50 (45), 1016-7 PMID: 11724161

Hull HR, Radley D, Dinger MK, & Fields DA (2006). The effect of the Thanksgiving holiday on weight gain. Nutrition journal, 5 PMID: 17118202

Rick, S., Pereira, B., & Burson, K. (2014). The benefits of retail therapy: Making purchase decisions reduces residual sadness Journal of Consumer Psychology, 24 (3), 373-380 DOI: 10.1016/j.jcps.2013.12.004

Petrescu, M., & Murphy, M. (2013). Black Friday and Cyber Monday: a case study International Journal of Electronic Marketing and Retailing, 5 (3) DOI: 10.1504/IJEMR.2013.052884

Beauchamp GA, Ho ML, & Yin S (2014). Variation in suicide occurrence by day and during major American holidays. The Journal of emergency medicine, 46 (6), 776-81 PMID: 24462023

H.E.Jones (1941) Seasonal Variations in IQ. The Journal of Experimental Education. Vol. 10, No. 2, Dec., 1941

Knutson, Brian, Scott Rick, Elliott Wimmer, Drazen Prelec, and George Loewenstein (2007), "Neural Predictors of Purchases," Neuron, 53, 147-156.

Hull HR, Hester CN, & Fields DA. (2006) The effect of the holiday season on body weight and composition in college students. Nutrition & metabolism, 44. PMID: 17192197