Healthy Living: National Stress Survey

Updated 4 years ago

Recognizing Stress vs. Effectively Addressing StressBy- Dr. David Prescott Stress in America Survey: Each year, the American Psychological Association teams with Harris Interactive Research to conduct the “Stress in America Survey.” This survey helps identify Americans’ current perceived level of stress, sources of stress and ability to effectively cope with stress. The results reveal that, as a nation, most of us live under moderate to high stress and that we recognize stress’s negative influence on our lives and our health. Why is Understanding Stress Important? Short-term stress can actually be helpful in focusing our energy on an important task, like an exam in school or an athletic event. However, chronic, long-term stress is associated with a number of negative conditions including:  Heart disease Depression or Anxiety Disorder Obesity Overall poor health Chronic PainWhat are the Top Stressors for 2010? The top stressors for 2010 were similar to those identified in the 2009 survey, and focus largely on economic factors. They include:  Money (76% of population) Work (70% of population) Economy (65% of population)While these factors were similar from last year, some additional stressors were cited that are higher in 2010 than in 2009. These include:  Job stability is a greater stressor in 2010 (49%) vs. 2009 (44%) Employers are viewed as less helpful in assisting employees in balancing job vs. home stress (only 36% are viewed as helpful in 2010 vs. 42% in 2009).Do Kids Know About Parents’ Stress? Most parents in the survey felt that their stress level has little impact on their children. Our children, however, report otherwise. 69% of parents said that their stress had little or no impact on their children, yet 91% of children said that they know and are affected by their parents’ stress. Most children were very good at identifying signs of parent stress (e.g., more irritable, not being able to spend time with children, reprimand children more). Children, by and large, felt able to tell their parents about their own feelings of stress. Yet, a third to half of children reported problems falling asleep, having physical symptoms like upset stomach, or unhealthy eating as effects of parents’ stress. Good News for East Coast: For reasons that are not entirely clear, people who live in the eastern part of the country reported the lowest average stress levels. On a 10 point scale, east coast residents report an average stress level of 5.2, which is the fourth straight annual drop. 35% of those living in the east reported little or no stress, with the next highest region (midwest) being 25%. Knowing What to Do and Actually Doing It: Most Americans readily recognize that high stress levels are associated with poor physical and mental health, unhealthy eating habits, avoiding regular exercise, and harmful coping strategies like smoking or excessive drinking. However, most people also acknowledge that while they know what to do to cope with stress more effectively, they don’t actually do it. The American Psychological Association identifies some good starting points for putting our knowledge about better coping with stress into action. These include:  Change One Habit at a Time: Start small. Your progress will gain momentum and help you pursue more challenging stress management goals.  Talk About It: Most people are better able to cope with stress when they talk with supportive others Just expressing some of those bottled up feelings helps reduce stress levels.  Create a Health Environment: Our stress level and unhelpful coping strategies are often triggered by things around us. Making your work or living space less cluttered and more comfortable reduces stress. Or, having health snacks available reduces the urge to eat “junk food” when you are stressed. For More Information: American Psychological Association Help Center: www.apa.org/helpcenterAcadia Hospital: www.acadiaohospital.org


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