It may not come as a surprise to you that Americans are seriously stressed-out. But a survey released today by the American Psychological Association also paints a grim picture of what could happen to our physical and emotional health if we can't find a way to calm down. And while most people understand the importance of managing stress, many are simply too busy or lack the willpower to take the necessary steps, the survey suggests.
The online survey looked at 1,134 adults 18 and older, 1,136 kids between 8 and 17, and 937 parents of children in that age group. Nearly three-quarters of them reported experiencing stress at levels that exceed what they consider healthy. Among the other key findings:
• Thirty-two percent of parents reported stress levels that qualified as extreme: 8 to 10 on a 10-point scale.
• Children as young as 8 said they had experienced physical and emotional health consequences often associated with stress, such as headaches or trouble falling asleep. Those symptoms were significantly more prevalent among overweight or obese kids, who were also more likely (27 percent versus 14 percent) to report eating to make themselves feel better when they felt worried or stressed.
• Young people said they turned to sedentary activities (watching TV, playing video games) rather than physical activity to ease worry or stress.
In a press release, APA head Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D., said that “stress is hurting our physical and emotional health and contributing to some of the leading causes of death in this country,” citing chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression, all of which are worsened by stress. It could “easily become our next public health crisis," he added.
A hot bath, a vigorous walk on the treadmill or with the dog, 15 minutes of quiet time or meditation—whatever your preferred method for coping with stress, the findings, combined with the large body of existing evidence on the effects of stress and the benefits of reducing it, underscore that the important thing is to do it, now and regularly.
Read the full survey report.
—Jamie Hirsh, associate editor