stressed out in america
July 8, 2014

Survey Reveals What Americans Are Really Stressed About The Most

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

While every American faces some form of stress, a new survey has found that medical-related issues are the primary driver of stress in the United States.

Conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health in March and April of this year, the new survey asked Americans about their sources of stress, how stress affected them and how they dealt with it.

The poll found 49 percent of respondents had a major stressful event happen to them in the past year and 26 percent said they had a “great deal” of stress within the past month. Of those who reported a major stressful event, 43 percent cited health problems in form of illness or death of a loved one. Of those who said they were greatly stressed within the last month, 60 percent said they had a poor health condition.

“What surprised us is that health issues dominated when identifying the most important factor that led to a stressful event,” project director Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard, told the Boston Globe. He added that, “health issues have a really large scale impact” on US stress levels.

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Other forms of stress included a low household income, a dangerous job or a family situation.

“Most Americans have some level of stress, but it’s usually not a serious problem,” Blendon said. “We really wanted to focus on those under severe stress because such high levels can lead to additional health problems, like sleep deprivation.”

Respondents who said they were under a heavy amount of stress reported numerous effects – including sleeping less than usual (70 percent), eating less (44 percent) and exercising less (43 percent). Stress also caused respondents to increase certain activities, with 41 percent saying they attended church or prayed more than usual and 41 percent saying they were sleeping more than usual.

The survey also examined what activities might help to reduce stress, such as regular exercise or having a hobby. A majority of respondents, 57 percent, said they spend time outdoors to relieve stress. Other popular solutions for stress included regular exercise (49 percent) and a hobby (46 percent).

Notably, 90 percent of respondents said all three of those activities were the best ways to deal with stress. While 85 percent said prayer or meditation helps with stress – just 57 said they regularly did either.

“They weren’t using techniques to handle stress that they reported helped them most,” Blendon said.

The silver lining to the survey was the discovery that stress could actually be a motivator. A majority of those who reported feeling highly stressed within the past month said at some point in their life it was a good thing. This response was mostly given by younger adults, with 83 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 agreeing with this sentiment.

Interestingly, about 1 in 7 Americans said they didn’t have much stress at all within the past month. These respondents attributed this to their personality.

“Mostly, they thought they had personalities that sort of protected them from responding to stressful situations,” Blendon said.