The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that American stress levels and accompanying physical symptoms have risen in early 2017, reversing a ten year trend in overall stress reduction.
Three in ten Americans surveyed said their stress levels had increased in the past year, with 20% reporting episodes of extreme stress. While money, work and the economy remained constant factors, the election, politics and fear for personal safety have become notable sources of stress for many Americans.
The latest data, released on February 15th, 2017, marks the first statistically significant increase in overall stress since the survey was first conducted in 2006. In all previous years, stress levels had steadily fallen.
Worrying For the Future
Survey takers were asked to rate their overall stress on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being the highest. Between August 2016 and February 2017, the average reported stress level rose from an all-time low of 4.8 to an all-time high of 5.1
Republican or Democrat, 57-percent of Americans say they’re stressed about the current political climate. Almost half point to the presidential election as a somewhat or significant cause of stress, and 66-percent are worried about the future of our nation.
Politics aren’t the only culprit. The highest number of Americans have cited personal safety as an issue since the question was introduced in 2008. It rose from 29 percent to 34 percent in five months.
Acts of terrorism rank as one of the most significant causes of that fear. Fifty-nine percent feel it is a somewhat or very significant source of stress now versus 51 percent previously.
In the same period, fear of violence against minorities increased from 36 to 44 percent.
Side Effects of Change
With mental change comes physical and emotional effects. In five months, the percentage of people reporting at least one stress-related symptom jumped from 71 to 81 percent.
About a third of Americans report experiencing headaches, feelings of nervousness or anxiety, feeling overwhelming or feeling depressed or sad.
“The stress we’re seeing around political issues is deeply concerning, because it’s hard for Americans to get away from it,” said Katherine C. Nordal, Ph.D., the American Psychological Association’s executive director for professional practice, in the official press release. “We’re surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most.”
Coping with Stress
Of the ways in which survey respondents said they manage stress, 3 of the top 7 could be considered unhealthy – going online, watching TV, and eating. “Exercising or walking” was the top stress management technique and women consistently reported taking an active role in managing their stress more than men in every category.
The long-term impact of these increased stress levels could be significant.
“We know that chronic stress can take a toll on a person’s health. It can make existing health problems worse, and even cause disease, either because of changes in the body or bad habits people develop to cope with stress. The bottom line is that stress can lead to real physical and emotional health consequences,” Dr. Nordal stated in the APA report.
At our massage therapy clinic, we’ve also seen a rise in the number of clients coming in specifically requesting relaxation and stress relief as their primary goal. This includes repeat or regular clients that typically seek pain relief as the primary reason for their visit.
Massage therapy has been shown to be effective in reducing stress. Simply by reducing blood pressure and reducing stress hormones in the body, clients can feel more relaxed. As noted above, stress can also cause existing issues to become worse. Massage therapy encourages healthy sleep and can make chronic conditions easier to cope with by interrupting the downward spiral that emerge as a result of untreated chronic stress.
Regardless of the specific stress management methods, developing a routine to help cope with the stresses of life is critical to maintaining health and wellbeing. Yoga, massage therapy, and hiking are some of our favorite methods and we encourage you to find your own set of tools to help you manage stress – preferably NOT going online, watching TV, and eating. 😉Share This: