June 12, 2012
Study Reports Stress In Different Demographic Groups
Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com
Trying to find a job during a difficult economic time. Working through relationship issues with family members. These are just a few examples of situations that can cause stress on an individual. A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers looked at who was affected the most by stress in the last few years; they studied adult stress levels between 1983 and 2009, and reported a number of findings based on the theme of stress.
In the past, it has been difficult for researchers to compare levels of stress for individuals in the United States as there was a lack of data over a certain period of time. As well, it was difficult to track stress based on comparable measures. However, CMU researchers Sheldon Cohen and Denise Janicki-Deverts were recently able to do so. They compiled information from a telephone survey done in 1983 that polled 2,387 U.S. residents over the 18 years of age as well as took information from online surveys, done between 2006 and 2009, that polled 2,000 U.S. adults. All the surveys utilized the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) that was developed by Cohen to understand the level of stress of different situations in life for the participants.
With the study, Cohen and Janicki-Deverst were able to utilize the respondents´ answers to find out if psychological stress was related to gender, age, education, income, employment status, and/or race and ethnicity. They looked at the data from over 26 years, and in a report in a recent edition of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, the researchers discussed the various results. In particular, women, those with low income and those with less education were found to report stress in all three surveys. As well, when Americans get older, they have less stress. With retirees who report low levels of stress, retirement is seen as an event with positive effects.
"We know that stress contributes to poorer health practices, increased risk for disease, accelerated disease progression and increased mortality," explained Cohen, a professor of psychology as well as expert on the relationship between stress and disease at CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Science, in the statement. "Differences in stress between demographics may be important markers of populations under increased risk for physical and psychological disorders."
As well, Cohen and Janicki-Deverts studied the 2006 and 2009 surveys and found that white, middle-aged men who had attended college and had full-time jobs were the ones who were affected the most by the 2008-2009 economic recessions. They proposed that the group may have had the most at risk with their jobs and savings in an uncertain state with the unstable economy. Over the 26 year period, there was a 10 to 30 percent rise in stress in all demographic areas between 1983 and 2009; even with these results, the researchers caution against believing that Americans are the most stressed out today than they´ve ever been.
"It's hard to say if people are more stressed now than before because the first survey was conducted by phone and the last two were done online," Cohen said. "But, it's clear that stress is still very much present in Americans' lives, putting them at greater risk for many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders."