Stress in America - What’s Causing Stress in America?

by Brusman, Dr. Maynard Tuesday, February 21, 2012
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The American Psychological Association (APA), published the results of its' annual Stress in America survey in January, 2012. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2011/final-2011.pdf

The Stress in America survey, which was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of APA among 1,226 U.S. residents in August and September, showed that many Americans consistently report high levels of stress (22 percent reported extreme stress, an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale where 1 is little or no stress and 10 is a great deal of stress). While reported average stress levels have dipped slightly since the last survey (5.2 on a 10-point scale vs. 5.4 in 2010) many Americans continue to report that their stress has actually increased over time (39 percent report their stress has increased over the past year and 44 percent say their stress has increased over the past 5 years). Yet stress levels exceed people’s own definition of what is healthy, with the mean rating for stress of 5.2 on a 10-point scale— 1.6 points higher than the stress level Americans reported as healthy.

The Stress in America survey paints a picture of a nation at a critical crossroads when it comes to stress and health. Overall, Americans appear to be caught in a vicious cycle where they manage stress in unhealthy ways, and seemingly insurmountable barriers prevent them from making the lifestyle or behavioral changes necessary for good health. Findings from the 2011 survey found that several groups of people in particular — caregivers and those living with chronic illness — are at heightened risk of experiencing serious consequences of stress that is too high and appears to be taking a toll on their emotional and physical health.

Overall, people seem to recognize that stress can have an impact on health and well-being, but they do not necessarily take action to prevent stress or manage it well. The Survey findings also suggest that time management may be a significant barrier preventing people from taking the necessary steps to improve their health. The good news: there appears to be a growing understanding about the impact of stress in general and an increased value placed on effectively managing it.

What’s Causing Stress in America?

Money, work and the economy continue to be the most frequently cited causes of stress for Americans, as they have every year for the past 5 years. In addition, a growing number of Americans are citing personal health and their family’s health as a source of stress.

Significant sources of stress include:
  • • money (75 percent)
  • • work (70 percent),
  • • the economy (67 percent),
  • • relationships (58 percent),
  • • family responsibilities (57 percent),
  • • family health problems (53 percent)
  • • personal health concerns (53 percent)
  • • job stability (49 percent)
  • • housing costs (49 percent) and
  • • personal safety (32 percent).
As we seek to understand the impact of stress on Americans, it is critical that we explore systemic and individual solutions that can help people better understand and manage their stress so that they can improve their quality of life.

I believe learning effective ways to become more stress resilient in our fast-paced, socially-networked, constantly changing, and potentially dangerous world is a core competency for health, success, and happiness.

Working with a seasoned consulting psychologist and executive coach trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating instrumented assessments such as The Stress Profiler and BarOn EQi can help your become more stress resilient. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become happily engaged with the strategy and vision of the company.