By Daniel J. DeNoon
Who’s stressed in the U.S.?
There’s lots of stress to go around, finds the latest stress survey from the American Psychological Association. The Harris survey samples 1,226 U.S. residents last August and September.
One in five of us are under extreme stress (reporting 8 or higher on a 10-point scale). That’s actually less than the one-third of Americans who reported extreme stress in last year’s survey, the highest stress level since 2007 when the surveys began.
But don’t get too hung up on overall numbers. Each year, the APA focuses on the effects of stress in different groups. And this year, the survey identifies three groups of particularly stressed Americans:
• Caregivers. Last year, nearly 66 million Americans cared for a sick or disabled relative. Over half of those polled say they feel “overwhelmed.”
• Obese people. People struggling with obesity are just as likely to feel overwhelmed as caregivers.
• People suffering depression. Feeling hopeless is bad enough. But depression sharply adds to a person’s risk of suffering extreme stress — even more than caregiving or obesity.
In what the APA calls a vicious cycle, these three groups of people find it much harder to do the things they need to do to reduce their stress — and to protect their health. They watch too much TV. They get less satisfaction from relationships. They don’t eat a healthy diet. They are lonely and isolated.
So what can you do about it? A hint comes from that last item. Caregivers who feel supported by family members report significantly lower stress levels.
“This additional support appears to make a substantial difference in their lives,” the APA notes.
Who knows? That kind of support might make a big difference for all kinds of people whose stress has become extreme.