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Stress Survey Gives Picture of Kiwi Xmas Behaviour

Media Release 13 December 2007

National Stress Survey Gives Enlightening Picture of Kiwis’ Christmas Attitudes and Behaviour

Christmas and stress go together like turkey and stuffing – or so we think. Is it time to take the power back, and sail through the season of goodwill with a mood of calm and serenity even the Three Wise Men would envy?

This Christmas, AMP Capital Shopping Centres has conducted nationwide research to find out just how stressed we are, and what exactly sets our nerves on edge. The good news is that only seven percent of Kiwis report being somewhat or far more stressed than last year, while a Zen-like 36 percent are somewhat or far less stressed. However, a slight majority of respondents – 54 percent – expect more of the same, suggesting that, for many, Christmas is something of an annual ordeal.

The survey identified several factors that impinge on perceived stress levels. First, there is attitude, with many respondents saying they are becoming more relaxed about the season, and some linking this with getting older.

AMPCSC Senior Marketing Manager Linh Luong said respondents revealed that a major weapon in the war on stress is planning. “The researchers found that those who strategize, including doing Christmas shopping earlier, report having lower stress levels. Stress is reduced when circumstances are optimized – having fewer people, and fewer young children to plan for is a big help – and really reduced when someone else does the hosting or when the more ‘challenging’ family members are absent from Christmas gatherings. Many respondents pointed the finger at the in-laws!”

Outside circumstances can also increase stress, such as bereavement or a change in financial situation.

As for shopping habits – a key measure on the stressometer – a few proactive souls start 364 days early, on Boxing Day the previous year. However, at just three percent this is unusual behaviour. About one quarter of us start more than three months in advance, 16 percent two months before, and 21 percent on C-Day minus one month.

That leaves the rest of us: one third of Kiwis do their shopping in the final fortnight, and seven percent of respondents reported ‘the last minute.’ Post-survey analysis revealed a gender skew among last-minute shoppers, with men outnumbering women three to one.

Across the Country – What the People Said

Tauranga residents are approaching Christmas with an enviable sense of tranquillity; a full 60 percent report being somewhat or far more relaxed this year. Just six percent are somewhat more stressed, and two percent far more stressed, than in 2006.

The reasons given for reduced stress levels included being more organised, being older and wiser, knowing what people want for Christmas, and realising the reason we celebrate Christmas.

The people of the City of Sails aren’t quite as chilled as their Tauranga counterparts – nevertheless, nearly half reported being somewhat or far more relaxed this year. Thirty-eight percent said their stress levels were the same as last Christmas, 10 percent were somewhat more stressed, and a tense six percent admitted to being far more stressed this year.

For the 46 percent of Aucklanders who have reduced stress levels, their reasons included starting shopping early, focusing on other issues in life, such as health and family, and ‘not having the in-laws’.

A happy majority of Christchurch residents are less stressed than last year, with 26 percent stating they are far more relaxed this year and 32 percent reporting being somewhat more relaxed. One quarter of respondents said they were experiencing the same stress as last year, and 13 percent and four percent, respectively, were somewhat or far more stressed.

Respondents said not having to do the Christmas Day hosting, having less people to buy for, starting shopping earlier, and being older and wiser contributed to their reduced stress levels.

Putting these findings to work, AMPCSC asked Dr Frances Pitsilis, New Zealand’s doctor of well-being, for tips to help Kiwis combat stress this silly season.

- Sleep is the most important thing. Go to bed and be asleep by 10pm, to get the antiaging, anticancer and antioxidant effects of the melatonin surge that hits the body at 10:30pm. Getting enough sleep, at regular times, is crucial to surviving and enjoying the Christmas season.

- Attitude is key. Whether you think of it as not sweating the small stuff, or thinking about the big picture, you need to keep everything in perspective. It’s not important if you don’t send a card to that distant friend on time, or if you don’t have both blueberries and strawberries on the table. Remember it’s a holiday, and about being with loved ones.

- Establish your priorities, and work out what is important. At home, your family comes first. Unimportant things for strangers can be scratched.

- Learn to say ‘no’ by having polite refusals ready and on the tip of your tongue; for example, ‘It doesn’t fit with my schedule’ or ‘I have too many projects at the moment.’

- Plan ahead. Be inventive – some people make their Christmas pudding or cake at Labour Weekend, or do their shopping for the following year at the Boxing Day sales.

- Delegate, and when doing so, accept some mediocrity. You need to accept different standards for some things so you can survive. Get support, such as childcare, that will free you to get important tasks done.

- Don’t set unreasonable deadlines. Getting job-related tasks done for the year is one thing, but stress can spiral when you put pressure on yourself to complete personal projects by December 25.

- Be firm about relatives. Many people dread Christmas Day because of the obligation they feel to spend time with people they don’t like, and don’t see at any other time. Instead, come up with a creative way to avoid seeing the relatives you can’t stand, even if you risk upsetting them. If you upset someone, but that person and their opinion of you is not important to you, it doesn’t matter. Be brave, and everyone will be relieved.

- Watch your diet and alcohol intake.

Finally, for those with young ones, some sage pointers from Plunket to help make Christmas merry:

- Try to anticipate and avoid problems in advance. If problems arise, try to stay in control and explain what you want in a calm, quiet voice.

- Expect a few tears – special occasions can be overwhelming, especially for little ones whose coping mechanisms are still developing.

- As much as possible, sticking to normal routines for food, activity and rest will help reduce difficult behaviour at Christmas.

- Take a break – look after your own needs so you can enjoy holiday time with your children. A designated child minder is a great idea at gatherings, giving you a chance to relax and recharge.

- If you want to speak to a Plunket Nurse call PlunketLine on 0800 933 922. PlunketLine is available from 7am to midnight, seven days a week.


About AMP Capital Shopping Centres
AMP Capital Shopping Centres (AMPCSC) manages five Centres in New Zealand; LynnMall, Botany Town Centre and Manukau Supa Centre in Auckland, Bayfair Shopping Centre in Tauranga and The Palms in Christchurch. In total there are forty three centres, thirty eight of which are in Australasia.

AMP Capital Shopping Centres (AMPCSC) fits within the Property Division of AMP Capital Investors and provides asset, development and property management expertise to the shopping centres owned and/or managed by AMP Capital Investors’ various property funds and private clients.

About the Research
Data collection: Data was collected through telephone interviews conducted by Consumer Link, a reputable market research company headquartered in Auckland. Interviews were collected using random-digit dialling on a nationwide basis. A total of 500 interviews were collected between 7 and 13 November, 2007.

Representativeness of the sample: Based on the data received, we believe the sample is representative of households with fixed-line phones. The sample somewhat over-represents women at 43 percent, but this is typical of all telephone survey work. Overall, we believe the sample fairly represents the attitudes of the majority of New Zealanders.

Margin of Error: The margin of error of this research is ±4.38 percentage points, 95 percent of the time, on questions in which opinion is evenly split.

About Rick Starr
Rick Starr has spent his career in marketing management and education. He has experience as a brand manager at Johnson Wax and Procter & Gamble, in business-to-business marketing for banking equipment and printing, and as a consultant to many New Zealand and American companies.

Rick moved to Auckland in 1995, to teach at the University of Auckland and offer marketing consultancy and market research services. In this role he has had the opportunity to work with leading New Zealand corporations, SME’s, and government organisations.

Rick shares his experience with managers studying in the Executive Programmes at the University of Auckland Business School as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Marketing. He has published in Qualitative Market Research, Marketing Letters, and the European Journal of Marketing, and co-authored the Instructor’s Edition of Philip Kotler’s Principles of Marketing. He is a frequent media commentator on marketing issues.

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