The American Psychological Association reports that Americans are experiencing greater levels of stress in 2017 for the first time since initiating the Stress in America Survey ten years ago in 2007. This is a statistically significant finding, APA calculated.

The member psychologists of the American Psychological Association (APA) began to report that patients were coming to appointments increasingly anxious about the 2016 Presidential election. So the APA polled U.S. adults on politics for the first time in ten years of conducting the Stress in America survey.

Two-thirds of Americans are stressed and/or anxious about the future of the nation, and over-half had stressed about the political climate surrounding the 2016 elections. These and other findings are detailed in the press release, Many Americans Stressed about Future of Our Nation, New APA Stress in America Survey Reveals.

This is the tenth annual survey of Stress in America. Over the first nine years of the study, Americans’ stress levels decreased. However, in the latest research conducted in January 2017, the APA found that Americans reported symptoms of stress, especially related to personal safety and terrorism in addition to politically-generated stress.

Contributing to peoples’ political anxiety is the role of social media: 38% of people said that political and cultural discussions on social media created stress. Consumers who used social media were more likely to report that is was a significant source of stress (for 54% of social media users versus 45% of people who were not using social media at election-time). Use of social media was seen as both a beloved activity as well as a stress-inducing one in the survey, with the “constant checker” (that is, a person more frequently engaging with technology) bearing more stress.

There were demographic differences among people who felt more politically-borne stress: the more-stressed tended to be people with greater education levels, as well as urban dwellers (62% of urbanites vs. 33% of rural dwellers felt stress due to politics). More women are stressed than men, and younger Americans (Millennials and Gen Xers) are also more stressed than older people.

Beyond politically-borne stress, the most commonly reported stress factor in America was the economy and personal financial wellness, reported by 44% of people in the Stress in America survey fielded in August 2016.

The APA offers straightforward advice for managing the 24-hour news cycle.” “Limit your media consumption,” recommended Dr. Katherine C. Nordal, APA’s executive director for professional practice. “Read enough to stay informed but then plan activities that give you a regular break from the issues and the stress they might cause. And remember to take care of yourself and pay attention to other areas of your life,” she added.” [In summary: balance media consumption with the rest of life’s blessings].

The survey was conducted online with 3,511 U.S. adults over 18 in English and Spanish, by Harris Poll, in August 2016 and with another 1,019 adults in January 2017.

This study represents the 10-year anniversary of the Stress in America report. For additional information on stress, follow the APA’s Twitter hashtag  #stressAPA.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: I covered Stress and Health in #Election2016 here in Health Populi based on an APA survey conducted in the heat of Americans’ facing the November 2016 Presidential election. The third graphic illustrates the finding from APA’s poll that one-half of U.S. adults said the presidential election was a source of stress to them.

Kaiser Health News referred to the ongoing anxiety among many Americans as “Post-Election Stress Disorder.” It was discussed around the election in 2016 in Psychology Today here.

Stress is a social determinant of health: over the longer term, stress can increase the risks of heart disease and obesity. Research published earlier this month from a team at University College London directly linked stress to obesity.

Stress is also expensive: for U.S. companies alone, stress costs companies at least $300 bn a year in lost productivity. Extremely stressed employees are two times more likekly to report poor overall health, leading to absenteeism and lower productivity for employers. The latest research from Virgin Pulse on the topic, aptly named Stressing the Issue, calls stress “the hidden workplace threat.”

Stress is a public health threat, and is intensely personal. Stressed-out people adopt a variety of coping mechanisms, some shown in the last chart from the APA survey. Exercising and walking, time with family and friends, reading and praying — they all sound good to me. Unplugging, eating (bad food choices), and going online? Not so much.

 

 

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