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Christmas: giving presents makes you happy

(Vienna, 16th December 2014) The "act" of present giving makes you happy in general – not just at Christmas. This is because giving presents strengthens existing human relationships and builds new ones. Giving presents in itself makes you happier than receiving presents as you are being active. This is stressed by Johannes Wancata, Head of the Clinical Department of Social Psychiatry at the MedUni Vienna (University Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy), just a few day before gifts, both large and small, are given at Christmas.

A propos giving gifts: an unsuitable present can be disappointing for both sides. Nevertheless, it is not a disaster if for once a present does not hit the spot, stresses Wancata. Incidentally, women do find it easier to find the right present. Says Wancata: "Women and girls are basically more socialised, they generally look more at the whole picture, which is why they hit the spot with presents that much more often." On the other hand, men who get an undesirable present from their partner believe that this means that prospects for the future of the relationship are poor. Women are somewhat more lenient here. This was the result of a representative study at the University of British Columbia in 2008.

It therefore does not matter whether the present was bought at the last minute or was procured weeks in advance, whether it is small or large, expansive or cheap – the most important thing with a Christmas present is that it really matches the preferences and wishes of the person receiving it. "To find the right present needs a quiet moment of reflection and a detailed study of the person who is to receive the present. Only then will giving a present become a reciprocal pleasure." Flying in the face of the breathtaking pace of the times, Wancata pleads for a moment of reflection.

Presents always assessed as “cheaper”

From a psychological point of view, even the monetary value of a present does not matter at all to the recipient. Says Wancata: "Of course, anyone getting an unsuitable, but very expensive, present is nevertheless disappointed." A representative survey at the Rhenish-Westphalian Institute for Economic Research (RWI) also found in 2008 that Christmas presents are often worth less to the recipients than they actually cost, namely eleven percent less on average.

A propos disappointment: should the recipient make it clear when being given a present that they do not like the present, one should not discuss it on Christmas Day for the sake of peace at Christmas, advises the MedUni Vienna’s social psychiatrist: "It is better to let a few days go by. Then you can discuss it together with a little distance and in a friendly manner. Perhaps the present can be exchanged."