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One in Five Americans Highly Stressed, Survey Finds
Every year, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducts a national survey called Stress in America. Since 2007, this survey has been commissioned by the APA as part of the Mind/Body/Health Campaign. The goal is to measure perceptions of and attitudes toward stress as well as to identify the sources of stress that people experience, the impact it has on lives, and the ways in which people manage it.
Since the inception of the nationwide survey, the APA has declared that stress is a major health problem in the United States. The most recent edition shows a slight decline in stress levels, but that most people still experience unhealthy amounts of stress. Particularly vulnerable in the latest results is the young adult demographic.
The Stress in America survey polls over 2,000 American adults aged 18 and older and includes several components. To determine how much stress people are experiencing in the US, the questionnaire asks participants to rate their overall level of stress on a scale of one to ten. The lowest end of the scale represents little to no stress, while a score of ten is a great deal of stress.
According to ratings on the scale, stress in US adults peaked in 2010 with 24 percent of participants reporting that they experienced extreme stress. In the latest survey, from 2012, that number went down to 20 percent. The average rating on the stress scale reported in 2011 was 5.2. That decreased to 4.9 in the 2012 survey. Participants were also asked to rate the level of stress that is healthful or manageable and that number is 3.6. This means that most US adults still find that they have more stress they can manage, even if there is a small decrease since last year.
The group that reported the highest levels of stress, at an average on the scale of 5.4, was young adults. This includes participants between the ages of 18 and 33. Many more members of this age group, 39 percent, reported that their stress levels had increased over the last year, as compared to 29 percent of older adults. The young adults in the survey also reported feeling ill-equipped to deal with stress. The main sources of stress for this young generation include money, work, and job stability.
One possible reason for the higher levels of stress among young adults is the collapse of the economy and the resulting individual failures that this inevitably causes. Many of these young people had high hopes and expectations after earning college degrees and then found that they could not get jobs or they lost jobs due to down-sizing. These failures are not necessarily the fault of any individual, but they are personal and they do cause stress and anxiety.
In addition to reporting high levels of stress in the survey, many young adults and other participants believe they are not fully capable of coping with the stress. More than half stated that they receive no support for stress from their health care providers. Experts worry that health care in general neglects this important aspect of mental and physical health. There are techniques available, for those who have the information, for reducing and managing stress that are proven to be successful.
The authors of the survey and accompanying report worry that so many Americans are living with high stress and with no ways to cope with it. They fear that these individuals are at a tipping point and that they face both emotional and physical repercussions if the stress is not treated. This can include insomnia, anxiety, pain, a weakened immune system, and elevated blood pressure. There is even evidence that chronic stress can worsen symptoms of illnesses such as depression, obesity, and heart disease.
Although the results of the survey indicate that levels of stress, in general, have been decreasing since 2010, experts are still concerned. Amounts of stress experienced by many adults are still too high and are especially high among young adults. Without stress management to lessen this, the authors believe that the figures will begin to climb again. They also believe that the incidence of chronic illnesses will begin to increase along with the costs of health care. Managing stress should be a possibility for all Americans.