STRESS IN AMERICA 2011
Reported by the American Psychological Association (APA), January 11, 2012
Beginning in 2007, APA has commissioned an annual survey to study of the connectionbetween stress, behavior, and mind/body health. The Stress In America survey measuresattitudes and perceptions of stress among the general public and identifies leading sources ofstress, common behaviors used to manage stress and the impact of stress in our lives.Reported stress levels for American overall are continuing to drop and have reached theirlowest point since 2007. While stress levels appear to be balancing out, they remain high andexceed what Americans consider to be healthy. Year after year, many Americans report extremestress (22% in 2011; 24% in 2010 and 2009; 30 % in 2008; and 32 % in 2007)—which is indicativeof a serious trend that could have long-term consequences on people’s health.
WHAT’S CAUSING STRESS IN AMERICA
Money, work and the economy continue to be the most frequently cited causes of stress forAmericans, as they have every year for the past 5 years. In addition, a growing number ofAmericans are citing personal health and their family’s health as a source of stress.The latest APA survey also reveals deepening concerns about the connection between chronicdisease and stress, especially caregivers and people living with a chronic illness such as obesityor depression.
CAREGIVING AND STRESS
Millions of Americans provide care for aging or chronically ill family members at home, andthat number is expected to grow and the number of older Americans is likely to double by theyear 2030, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Findings from theStress in America survey suggest that we may want to pay particular attention to the impactof these responsibilities on caregivers, who report higher levels of stress, poorer health anda greater tendency to engage in unhealthy behaviors to alleviate their stress than the generalpublic.Caregivers are not only more likely to report stress than other Americans, they also reporthigher levels. Fifty-five percent of caregivers say they feel overwhelmed by the amount of caretheir aging or chronically ill family member requires. Caregivers are more likely than thosein the general population to say they are doing a poor/fair job practicing healthy behaviors,including managing stress.
STRESS LINKED TO OBESITY AND DEPRESSION
The rate of obesity in the United States remains at epidemic proportions. Currently 68% ofadults (age 20 years or older) in the nation are overweight or obese and 33.8% are obese. And,according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 American adults suffersfrom depression, and that those aged 45-64 years are more likely than other age groups to meetthe criteria of depression.Obesity and depression are often exacerbated by stress. Those who suffer from these conditionsreport that they are unable to take the necessary steps to reduce their stress or improve theirhealth, and, therefore engage in unhealthy coping behaviors.Those with obesity or depression are less likely to report success when eating a healthier dietor reducing stress. Those with obesity are less likely to report successfully having lost weight.Stress management strategies most often reported by obese adults are watching TV for morethan 2 hours daily, listening to music, and eating. Those sedentary behaviors can exacerbateweight issues. Adults with obesity or depression are significantly more likely than those inthe other groups to report feeling self-conscious and embarrassed as reasons why they do notexercise more often.
THE EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL TOLL Of STRESS
While awareness about the impact stress can have on emotional and physical seems to haveimproved, may Americans continue to report symptoms of stress.
• Americans report irritability or anger (42%), fatigue (37%); lack of interest, motivation orenergy (35%); headaches (32%); and upset stomachs (24%) due to stress. A smaller percentagereport having a change in appetite (17%) and sex drive (11%).Similar proportions of adults engage in unhealthy behaviors due to stress as did last year.
• 29% skipped a meal due to stress.
• 39% reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods.
• 44% reported lying awake at night.There is some indication that Americans are beginning to exercise more. The number reportingthat they exercise “a few times a week” rose from 36% in 2010 to 41% in 2011; however, manycontinue to report barriers to being more physically active.
• Lack of motivation seems to be a key part of why people are not exercising more frequently(41%); followed by saying they are too busy to exercise more often (33%).
• 8 Half (51%) of adults with families report that it takes a great amount or some effort to gettheir families to exercise.
The subgroup of adults surveyed in Los Angeles are more likely than adults nationally to seea mental health professional to help manage stress and are more likely to get help from othersand work to make positive changes in their lives. They are somewhat more successful thanthose nationwide in making some, but not all, of those changes
• Four in 10 (42%) Los Angeles adults (v 37% nationally) say that stress has a very strongimpact on their body or physical healthy, and 43% believe that stress has a very strong impacton their mental health, larger than 35% nationally.
• Among those who attempted to make a lifestyle change, a greater number of adults in L.A.than those nationwide say they have been successful at eating a healthier diet (48% v 44%),exercising more (49% v 45%) and losing weight (39% v 30%).
To read the full report on Stress In America 2011, visit www.stressinamerica.org