IS CHRISTMAS hazardous to your mental health? A widespread popular belief says that it is. In fact, a notable proportion of what the general public reads about depressive illness concerns depression at Christmas. The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, a standard index of 170 widely circulated popular publications, lists 147 articles on "depression, mental" during the last ten years and 21 deal with the "Christmas depression syndrome." The articles have titles like "Christmas Depression and How to Deal With It," "Beat Those Holiday Blues," and "Holidays Got You Down?" They usually include some "case reports," some comments by a psychiatrist, and some helpful hints on how to avoid depression. Newspapers, radio, and television repeat the same general pattern. But what does the medical literature tell us about this much publicized syndrome?
The relevant professional literature, almost all of it from the United States, contains articles of two types: