Emergency departments at Western Sydney Local Health District revealed the top reasons for patient consultations over the yearly holiday seasons. Mental health, traumas and assaults, alcohol-related problems are in the top.
Emergency departments at Western Sydney Local Health District such as in Westmead, revealed the yearly top holiday health risks for patient consultations. Key health problems include: Mental health, traumas and assaults, alcohol-related presentations from intoxication, heart attacks and insect, spider or snake bites.
Top Holiday Health Risks
For some people, Christmas can be a time where personal stress and mental health experiences can trigger feelings of sadness and loneliness. Therefore, it is extremely important to remember to take care of yourself and those around you who may be vulnerable to it.
The Salvation Army estimates that more than 2 million Australians will feel some kind of isolation during the festive period. They further elaborate, hardship and loneliness hit the hardest during the Christmas period. For them, it is their busiest time of year, with more than 300,000 coming to them for support.
Some of the common reasons for support may include the relocation to a city far from one's relatives, a messy relationship or marital break-up, or other isolation from one's family and friends.
The emphasis on sharing good times during the festive season can add to the stress of everyone, even more so to those susceptible to loneliness or depression.
Below are some suggestions on how people could tackle these stressful situations, such as:
- Planning & Information Finding; for some this may involve Christmas shopping, for others it can involve planning fun activities or budgeting for their expenses in the new year. Preparing yourself and making a plan will help you to be aware of your own situation and shortcomings as well as to avoid any last-minute stress.
- Realistic Expectations; this is a HUGE opportunity to manage one's stress. By setting the right expectations you may be able to avoid any negative triggers that usually come with the holiday stress or that are sensitive topics to you. You can set expectations with work, family & friend reunions or financial expenses for activities and gifts, whatever suits your situation and will be helpful. For others who are expecting the holidays by themselves, set the right expectation to enjoy your time and avoid areas of external triggers.
- Drink Responsibly; this is also a HUGE opportunity to manage holiday stress. Everyone wants to enjoy toasting the new year and sharing tasty drinks with friends to relax and unwind. But alcohol has direct negative implications for some. Sometimes alcohol can fuel arguments between people but other times people may enjoy their night positively, but experience the negativity from the hangover for days on end afterwards.
- Stay Healthy in the Downtime; Please do not forget to enjoy the public holiday time off away from your usual daily routines. For some, this can be an opportunity to catch up on house chores and admin. For others, you may want to relax to the fullest, catch up on sleep, hobbies or even get back into a healthy workout routine. Whatever you may feel like you need and normally do not have a lot of time for, Public Holidays can be a great opportunity to catch up.
It is worth nothing, your group of friendships tend to change every seven years or so. Openly communicating with your friends about what is important to you may help to strengthen your relationship. This means that certain negative triggers in this category of friendships, may happen at any time during the year and not just during the holidays.
Trauma and Assault
A report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) showed the number of consultations caused by assaults increased by around one third between the winter and summer months. Events such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve generally result in spikes in these numbers, with issues being reported around people fighting, sustaining injuries and in worst cases also domestic abuse between family members or partners.
Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Abuse and Violence network commented that as families spend more time together during holiday periods, there will be more use of alcohol and potentially drugs and medication. These negative triggers combined with holiday stress may result in messy conflicts for some.
General Practitioners are often able to be the first point of help for patients going through a difficult holiday period. GPs can talk to the patients in a way that acknowledges they know Christmas is not a good time for everybody and that they are there with support for those who think they need it.
A lot of us can relate, even when you intend to drink responsibly, it can be difficult to stick to this plan because getting drunk is often an accepted norm part of groups of people who get together for a fun occasion. There is often social pressure to drink and the holiday setting makes it easier to drink larger amounts.
However, there are a broad range of short and long-term harms associated with regular alcohol use. Regular drinking can cause a range of health, social and economic problems even if the person does not drink to the amount of officially being drunk each time.
There are alcohol guidelines recommending no more than four standard drinks on any one day, and no more than 10 in a week. The aim is to know the areas where alcohol consumption is causing harm to one's life.
It is estimated 25% of Australians would drink more than four standard drinks on an occasion, although this number was also reported to be decreasing.
What do you think about holiday stress? And what tips have you got to manage Mental Health, Assaults and Alcohol-related problems that Australians show know? We would love to hear from Doctors who are passionate about helping their patients through the holiday season.
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