15 Feb 2017

Survey: Many Americans Stressed About Future of Our Nation

Survey: Many Americans Stressed About Future of Our Nation

New APA Stress in America™ survey shows more Americans reporting symptoms of stress after the election.

With the 2016 elections behind us and having entered a new year, how are Americans feeling?

According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) report Stress in America™: Coping with Change, two-thirds of Americans say they are stressed about the future of our nation.

An APA poll conducted in January found that the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress for more than half of Americans (57 percent).  Nearly half (49 percent) say the same about the outcome of the election.

While Democrats were more likely than Republicans (72 percent vs. 26 percent) to report the outcome of the 2016 presidential election as a significant source of stress, a majority of Republicans (59 percent) said the future of the nation was a significant source of stress for them, compared with 76 percent of Democrats.

“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, PhD, APA’s executive director for professional practice. “We’re surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most.”

Nordal also noted that while APA is seeing continued stress around politics, the survey also showed an increased number of people reporting that acts of terrorism, police violence toward minorities and personal safety are adding to their stress levels.

These results come on the heels of an APA survey, conducted by Harris Poll last August among 3,511 adults.  The August survey found that 52 percent of Americans reported that the presidential election was a significant source of stress. The latest survey was conducted online by Harris Poll in early January 2017, among 1,019 adults ages 18+ who reside in the U.S.

Between August 2016 and January 2017, the overall average reported stress level of Americans rose from 4.8 to 5.1, on a scale where 1 means little or no stress and 10 means a great deal of stress, according to the APA survey. At the same time, more Americans said that they experienced physical and emotional symptoms of stress in the prior month, health symptoms that the APA warns could have long-term consequences. 

The percentage of people reporting at least one health symptom because of stress rose from 71 percent to 80 percent over five months. A third of Americans have reported specific symptoms such as headaches (34 percent), feeling overwhelmed (33 percent), feeling nervous or anxious (33 percent) or feeling depressed or sad (32 percent).

“While these common health symptoms might seem minor, they can lead to negative effects on daily life and overall physical health when they continue over a long period,” said Nordal.

APA encourages people to stay informed but know their own limits when it comes to taking in information as one way to diminish the constant exposure to potentially distressing news and the resulting physical symptoms.

“For many, the transition of power and the speed of change can cause uncertainty and feelings of stress, and that stress can have health consequences. If the 24-hour news cycle is causing you stress, limit your media consumption,” said Nordal. “Read enough to stay informed but then plan activities that give you a regular break from the issues and the stress they might cause. And remember to take care of yourself and pay attention to other areas of your life.”

This marks the 10-year anniversary of the Stress in America report, part one of a two-part release. APA released part two on Feb. 23, highlighting how technology use affects stress among Americans. To read the full report go here. (PDF)

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