Americans stressed over economy, more report symptoms

In the midst of a shaky economy, the 2008 APA Stress in America survey finds a nation stretched thin

by Public Relations Staff

October 23, 2008 — With the growing financial crisis and the rising costs of gas, food, and healthcare, Americans are clearly experiencing heightened stress. The American Psychological Association's 2008 national Stress in America survey reveals what Americans are stressed about, what they are doing to manage that stress, and how stress is affecting their health.

The Stress in America annual survey is part of APA's public education campaign, "Mind/Body Health: For a Healthy Mind and Body, Talk to a Psychologist," which highlights psychology's unique role at the intersection of mental and physical health.

Among the 2008 findings:

Women are bearing the brunt of financial stress.

In September, more women than men report being more stressed about money (83 percent vs. 78 percent), the economy (84 percent vs. 75 percent), job stability (57 percent vs. 55 percent) and housing costs (66 percent vs. 58 percent).

The financial downturn is taking a toll on older women, but all are affected.

Women of the Boomer generation (aged 44 to 62) and Matures (aged 63+) are most likely to report the economy as a significant stressor, while women in general say they are more worried about money than their personal health.

Female Boomers report increases in stress associated with their job stability and health problems affecting their families. Mature women are reporting dramatic increases in stress associated with health problems affecting their families (up 17 points to 87 percent between April and September), the economy (up 18 points to 92 percent) and money (up 15 points to 77 percent).

Generation Xers (ages 30 to 43) and Millennials (ages 18 to 29) are not immune from financial worries. Generation Xers are the women most concerned about money (89 percent report money as a source of stress) and Millennials are most concerned about housing costs (75 percent report housing costs as a source of stress).

More people report physical symptoms of stress compared to 2007 survey data.

Over the summer, more people report fatigue (53 percent compared to 51 percent in 2007), feelings of irritability or anger (60 percent compared to 50 percent in 2007) and lying awake at night (52 percent compared to 48 percent in 2007) as a result of stress, in addition to other symptoms including lack of interest or motivation, feeling depressed or sad, headaches and muscular tension.

Women were more likely than men to report physical symptoms of stress like fatigue (57 percent compared to 49 percent), irritability (65 percent compared to 55 percent), headaches (56 percent compared to 36 percent) and feeling depressed or sad (56 percent compared to 39 percent).

Many adopt poor habits to cope with stress.

Almost half of Americans (48 percent) report overeating or eating unhealthy foods to manage stress. Women are more likely than men to report unhealthy behaviors to manage stress like eating poorly (56 versus 40 percent), shopping (25 versus 11 percent), or napping (43 versus 32 percent). Almost one-fifth of Americans report drinking alcohol to manage their stress (18 percent), and 16 percent report smoking.

Methodology

The 2008 Stress in America research was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the American Psychological Association between June 23, 2008 and August 13, 2008 among 1791 adults aged 18-plus who reside in the United States.

Additional data was collected in September; it was compared to data from April. The April data was collected online within the United States between April 7 and April 15, 2008, among 2,529 U.S. residents aged 18 or older. The September data was collected online within the United States between September 19 and September 23, 2008, among 2,507 U.S. residents 18 or older.

Data for the April and September polls were collected using an omnibus survey; the causes of stress question included a "not applicable" response. Data presented here were calculated excluding those who responded "not applicable."

No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.