Scientists reveal why being a scrooge about holiday parties is good for your mental health

  • It’s okay to say ‘no’ to holiday invitations to avoid burnout, study says
  • 77% of people worry about ruining relationships if they turn down an invitation
  • READ MORE: How to relax during the holidays

While saying ‘no’ to holiday parties may seem like you’re a scrooge, researchers have found that declining an invite to an unappealing event is good for mental health. 

Scientists at West Virginia University conducted a recent survey, finding more than three-quarters of people have accepted an invitation to something they didn’t  want to attend because they were concerned about the consequences of declining.

The action led to individuals feeling stressed, anxious and burnout – and the study found that it could all be avoided by rejecting the invitation. 

However, the team determined that not only do loved ones not care about rejected invitations as much as we imagine they do, but rejecting invitations can be beneficial in avoiding burnout.

Turning down invitations can be good for your mental health, according to researchers who said it could help you avoid 'burnout' during the holiday season

Turning down invitations can be good for your mental health, according to researchers who said it could help you avoid ‘burnout’ during the holiday season

Julian Givi, the lead author and assistant professor at West Virginia University, said in a press release: ‘I was once invited to an event that I absolutely did not want to attend, but I attended anyways because I was nervous that the person who invited me would be upset if I did not – and that appears to be a common experience.

‘Our research shows, however, that the negative ramifications of saying no are much less severe than we expect.’ 

The new study, published by the American Psychological Association, found that of the 2,000 people surveyed, 77 percent said they accepted invitations to an event merely because they were worried about how the person would react if they didn’t go.

The researchers conducted a series of five experiments, looking at the thought process that went through the invitees’ minds when considering rejecting an invitation versus how the inviter reacted to the rejection.

The study revealed that the inviter was not likely to harbor negative feelings if the invitee turned down an invitation to their event

The study revealed that the inviter was not likely to harbor negative feelings if the invitee turned down an invitation to their event 

In one experiment, participants were asked to react to a scenario where a friend invited them to dinner at a restaurant with a celebrity chef, but participants had plans during the day and wanted to relax that evening.

The majority of subjects responded that they believed by rejecting the invitation, their friend would be angry with them, it would harm their friendship, and they wouldn’t be invited to events in the future.

Researchers said in the study that one explanation for the invitees’ concerns was ‘an inflated sense of importance,’ but reported that an alternate reasoning was that they ‘overestimate the negative ramifications … because of motivated reasoning.’

The study offered a third possibility that the invitee believes the person who issued the invitation will focus on the decline rather than the thought and reasoning behind rejecting the invitation.

In another experiment, researchers used a model approach to test their hypothesis from the first study by having half the participants act as the invitee while having the other half act as the inviter and then swap their roles to the opposite perspective.

The team said their findings supported their first hypothesis that the invitee believed there were negative ramifications for declining an invitation.

The study did acknowledge that even though the participant’s responses were anonymous, ‘it is possible … they could have wanted to respond in a socially acceptable manner.’

Overall, the five experiments all had the same result, and saying ‘no’ to invitations is a challenging process, ‘leading people to accept invitations when they would rather not,’ the study said.

‘Across our experiments, we consistently found that invitees overestimate the negative ramifications that arise in the eyes of inviters following an invitation decline,’ Givi said in the release.