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WATCH: Why Your New Year's Eve Will Suck, Explained by Science

Don't get too excited.

DAVID NIELD
30 DEC 2016
 

Sorry guys, but your NYE is really going to suck, and AsapSCIENCE has the scientific evidence to show why.

 

There's no single scientific reason why you're likely to have a bad December 31st, just a bunch of contributing factors... but there's also a glimmer of hope for those of you determined to beat the odds and enjoy yourselves.

First up is the old problem of expectations vs reality: in a 1999 paper, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University interviewed 475 people about their plans for New Year's Eve and how much fun they expected to have.

When following up after the big night, the researchers found that 83 percent of the participants of the study had been disappointed by their NYE celebrations.

"High expectation can lead to disappointment, and... spending time and effort (and perhaps money) [on] an event can increase dissatisfaction," write the researchers. "Explicit efforts to achieve happiness can, at least in some situations, backfire."

In other words, the occasion of New Year's Eve can cause us to get our hopes up too high, especially if we've invested a lot of time and effort in it.

The same study hints at reason number two for having a bad time: we're just trying too hard.

 

In a separate experiment, participants were played a piece of music – some of the group weren't given any particular instructions while the music played, while others were told to try and enjoy the experience as much as possible.

As it turned out, those told to be happy found it most difficult to be happy. In the words of the study: "Individuals' efforts to pursue happiness may have led to frustration, which undermined their ability to feel the pleasure that they sought".

Next up is the optimism bias, the way our brains are naturally hard-wired to expect the best, no matter what the facts or reality may tell us.

The same bias affects newlyweds, most of whom think their marriage will flourish, even though the rate of divorce in the US hovers somewhere between 40 to 50 percent.

Coming fourth in our tale of NYE woe, there's reflection. As shown in a 2014 study, people approaching a new decade in their lives (about to turn 30, 40, 50 and so on), are prone to making big, life-altering decisions – such as taking up marathon running or visiting a website dealing in extra-marital affairs.

Hitting a big age makes "people audit the meaningfulness of their lives", the researchers explain in their paper, and it's the same when one year ticks over into another: some existential dread can creep in, as well as feelings of regret as we look back.

Number five on the list probably won't be new to you – our old friend alcohol, a staple of many a NYE party, which gradually affects the electrical signals in the limbic part of the brain.

The limbic system controls our emotions, and as the booze interferes with it, we become more prone to mood swings and perhaps amplified feelings of sadness that wouldn't be so strong if we weren't tipsy.

At number six – and don't worry, we're nearly there – is the sheer cost of New Year's Eve. Restaurants and bars will often put up their prices, and we spend more on booze and food – and for a lot of us, spending more cash than we need to isn't a pleasant experience.

In fact, we're happiest when we're spending our money by giving it away, not paying over-the-odds at a bar on NYE.

Interestingly though, even something as apparently minor as whether or not we're spending a round figure can make a difference: a study of Uber surge pricing has shown that more people take a cab at 2.1x the regular rate than 2.0x, because there's something about a round number that rankles.

The final reason you're unlikely to enjoy New Year's Eve is the midnight kiss, at least for those who are single: the added stress of feeling desperate and/or obliged to hook up with someone (and share around 80 million bacteria with them) can make us miserable too.

So, sorry to be a New Year grinch, but the scientific odds are stacked against you as the clock ticks to midnight on December 31.

To stay upbeat, just try to remember that there are 364 other days in the year, so don't force yourself to be happy. And who knows? You might end up having a pretty decent time after all.

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