Stress: The new normal?

180x150-general1For Mental Health InformationFor the last five years, the American Psychological Association (APA) has investigated the national impact of stress in association with its Mind/Body Health Campaign.    On February 7, 2013 the APA released the results of its Annual Survey on Stress in America survey (APA, 2013). This online study conducted by Harris interactive, on behalf of the APA,  surveyed 2020 Americans 18 years of age and older during a one month period (August 3-31, 2012).

2012 Stress in America Survey Highlights

More than 70% (1424) of the participants surveyed had previously been diagnosed with a chronic illness, which included but was not limited to diseases such as Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, chronic pain, obesity (See APA, 2013, report for full list).   This is noteworthy as previous studies have found a connection between stress and physical (e.g. hypertension, cardiovascular disease) and mental disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety).  

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Women Report Higher Stress Levels Than Men

The survey found gender differences in the amount of stress reported by participants (APA, 2013).  Women reported higher stress levels than men, were more likely to report extreme levels of stress (defined as 8, 9, or 10 on a 10 point scale with 10 being the highest level of stress), and were more likely to report their stress as increasing.    Exercise and listening to music were the top identified sources of stress management by both and women (APA, 2013).  However, about 50% of women as compared to 29% of men were more likely to report engaging in activities labeled as "sedentary" (e.g. reading).  Additionally, 27% of women as compared to 22% of men report using eating as a stress management tool.   Further, the survey revealed that men and women view their abilities to manage stress very differently.  Thirty-nine percent of men described their stress management as excellent or good as compared to (34%) women.  Finally, both men and women report that the leading causes of their stress were money, work and the economy.   

Americans Ages 18-47 Report High Stress Levels

The survey also found generational and regional differences in the report of stress.   The Stress in America survey classified participants into four age categories: participants ages  18 to 33 were classified as Millennials,  participants between the ages of 34 and 47 were classified as Gen Xers, 48 to 66 year olds were classified as Boomers, and, those ages 67 and older were classified as Mature.    Those individuals in the Millennials and Gen Xers reported the highest levels of stress and did not believe that they were doing a good job of managing their stress. Check the full report to see how Americans in your region manage stress.   

Talk to a Mental Health Professional About Ways to Manage Stress

Finally, the APA survey found that while Americans reported  that it was important to discuss stress management and behavior changes with their healthcare providers, many Americans did not.  Specifically, the report states:Twenty-one percent report that they never talk with their provider about lifestyle or behavior changes that could improve their health, 27 percent never discuss progress they are making toward their lifestyle and behavior goals, 33 percent never discuss ways to manage stress and 38 percent never discuss their mental health (APA, 2013, p. 4).

Resources 

Six myths about stressListening to the warning signs of stress Identifying signs of stress in your children and teens

References

American Psychological Association (2013).  Stress in America: missing the healthcare connection.   Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/index.aspx

 
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