American Stress Levels On The Decline
January 12, 2012

American Stress Levels On The Decline

A newly-released study shows that Americans are under stress, but are finding better ways to manage it.

The study Stress In America, published annually since 2006 by the American Psychological Association (APA), looked at 1,226 adults aged 18 and older living in the US. The study shows that stress levels in America are dropping. Stress levels are at their lowest since 2007 when the study started tracking stress levels.

The study grades the level of stress on a scale of 1 to 10, where a 1 is little or no stress and a 10 is a great deal of stress. For 2011, study participants marked the mean level of stress at 5.2, down from 5.4 in 2010. Even though the mean level of stress is showing a decline, a greater number of adults, 39 percent, say that stress is increasing. Forty-four percent report their stress has increased over the last five years. The number of adults reporting a decrease in stress in the last five years is 27 percent, and 17 percent report stress declining over the last year.

Money holds the top place as the greatest stressor concerning 75 percent of study participants. Work comes in second affecting 70 percent of the participants and the economy comes in  third at 67 percent.

The researchers know that stress also has an impact on those who suffer from obesity or depression. The people who suffer from these conditions reported in the survey that they were unable to change their behaviors in order to reduce stress or improve their health.

According to the study people suffering depression reported their stress levels at a 6.3 (on the scale of 1 to 10), and obese individuals reported their stress levels at 6.0, these are higher than the 5.2 reported by normal individuals.

When it comes to coping with stress people suffering from obesity or depression have a more difficult time adapting to healthier behaviors. Eighty-seven percent of those with obesity and 84 percent of those with depression were more likely to try a healthier diet than the general population, 77 percent. But only 31 percent of the obese and 33 percent of those depressed reported successfully changing their diet. And only 19 percent of the obese participants reported successfully losing weight, versus 30 percent of the general population.

According to Dr. Norman Anderson, PhD, APA´s CEO and executive vice president, “The Stress In America survey continues to show a nation at a crossroads when it comes to stress and health. We are caught in a vicious cycle where our stress exceeds our own definition of what is healthy, and those who are already living with a chronic illness report even higher levels of stress. Yet we´re ill-equipped to make changes to better manage that stress.”


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