We've mentioned before that Christmas is the deadliest day of the year, but what is even more surprising is the variety of ways that this most joyous of holidays is affecting your health for the worse. In fact, every single part of the holiday season seems to come together in an attempt to mess with your physical and mental well-being.
You've probably come down with a bad cold in mid-December and just assumed it was one of the side effects of winter that you have to deal with, most likely brought on by mixing with all those snot-nosed walking-plague children at the mall. And while that is a definite possibility, there is also a chance that the culprit was inside your house the whole time. It turns out there is a good reason we don't drag dying trees into our homes the other 11 months of the year, and that is because they are giant allergen-producing potential killers.
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Pine trees are covered in mold. While this isn't an issue when they're outside in the fresh air, mold thrives in your nice central-heated house. After just two weeks inside, the number of mold spores in the air increases more than sixfold. And if the knowledge that right now you're inhaling thousands of tiny, fuzzy bits of fungus isn't enough to make the germaphobes among you hold your breath until you're blue in the face, don't worry, it gets worse.
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While most people might just come down with a stuffy nose and a bad cough, all that mold can be much more dangerous for some. One study tested various kinds of pine trees and found 53 different types of mold, 70 percent of which could lead to respiratory problems, up to and including bronchitis and pneumonia. You might recognize those as dangerous illnesses that can land you in the hospital and/or kill you dead.
And if you think you're going to outsmart Death by setting up a fake tree, good luck. While those plastic abominations are a bit better for your health, they're still covered in a year's worth of dust, all of which gets dispersed in one room when you set it up and can lead to an asthma attack.
While it isn't true that suicides increase over the holiday season, that doesn't mean that everyone is walking around being jolly. The good news is that suicides appear to go down around Christmastime. However, while you might be less likely to kill yourself, you are more likely to kill someone else, with murder rates increasing in many Western countries during the month of December, including by almost 6 percent in the U.S. So, obviously, there must be something about the holidays that is making people snap.
She's going to strangle the entire house with those in a minute.
According to a Consumer Reports poll, 90 percent of people have at least one thing that gets them down or stresses them out over the holidays. Some of the major things that annoy people are obvious, like crowds and traveling, but every year millions of people are also driven to distraction by Christmas music and "having to be nice," because apparently that lie about Santa watching you that your parents told you as a child sticks around well into adulthood. Another poll found that the financial pressure of Christmas is so intense that 45 percent of people would rather skip the holiday than deal with the bills.
The real war on Christmas.
And if you're feeling smug that you get around all this stress by not celebrating Christmas because you are irreligious or practice a different religion, don't worry, it still manages to mess you up, too! One study found that the presence of a Christmas tree in a room made non-Christians feel subconsciously excluded and less happy than when there were no signs of the holiday around. So by making you feel like an outsider, Christmas is making sure that everyone is equally depressed at this supposedly joyous time of year.
Everyone expects to gain a pound or two around the holidays, but what is shocking is just how badly and how quickly you can become unhealthy. Boxing Day is one of the most dangerous days of the year for people with heart problems, and after the amount you eat and drink on Christmas, you just might fall in that category.
Eggnog: the silent killer.
One study in Britain found that people eat their daily recommended calorie intake by 2 p.m. on Christmas Day. You might recognize 2 p.m. as before you even really start eating. By the end of the day, expect to consume 7,000 calories. This might be why people gain an average of 6 pounds in the nine days between Christmas Eve and New Year's.
And that doesn't even begin to include the leftovers ... or the alcohol. Drinking increases over 40 percent in the U.K. and almost 30 percent in the U.S. over the holidays. All this unhealthy food and drink can increase your blood pressure, and the added stress can combine to make the perfect storm for a heart attack -- the number of heart-related deaths increases by 5 percent over the holidays.
"Merry chest X-rays, and a happy new valve!"
Then there is the fact that no one wants to mess up Christmas Day with their chest pains. So logically, instead of going to the hospital when they first start feeling unwell, people tend to wait until December 26 to see a doctor, by which point whatever is wrong with them is worse than it was the day before. And even if you don't personally have to worry about keeling over due to heart problems, if anything else goes wrong, expect to wait a long time to be seen in the emergency room the day after Christmas. Many hospitals say it is the busiest day of the year for them.