A new report shows Americans’ stress levels are rising—with politics, violence, terrorism, finances and health among the stressors identified—along with physical and emotional symptoms of stress.
Three in 10 Americans (31 percent) say that their stress has increased in the past year, while 20 percent reported experiencing extreme stress—a rating of 8, 9 or 10 on the 10-point scale, according to a new report from the American Psychological Association. The report reflects a statistically significant increase in stress for the first time since the Stress in America survey was first conducted in 2007.
Almost half of all Americans—and 76 percent of Democrats—cite the presidential election as a source of very or somewhat significant stress. Fifty-seven percent of Americans, whether they are Republican or Democrat, are stressed out about the general political climate.
Also adding to Americans’ stress levels are acts of terrorism, police violence toward minorities and personal safety issues.
Stress in America
Americans are reporting physical and emotional symptoms of stress, including headaches (34 percent), feeling overwhelmed (33 percent), feeling nervous or anxious (33 percent) or feeling depressed or sad (32 percent).
“The percentage of people reporting at least one health symptom because of stress rose from 71 percent to 80 percent over five months,” an American Psychological Association press release noted, in reference to stress in American society.
“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. “We’re surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most.”
The new report, Stress in America™: Coping with Change, is based on a survey conducted online by Harris Poll in early January 2017, among 1,019 adults ages 18+ who reside in the U.S.
Sources of Stress
According to the press release, “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. This represents the first significant increase in the 10 years since the Stress in America survey began.”
- The percentage of Americans reporting acts of terrorism as a very or somewhat significant source of stress increased from 51 percent to 59 percent from August 2016 to January 2017.
- The percentage of Americans reporting police violence toward minorities as a very or somewhat significant source of stress increased from 36 percent to 44 percent during the same period.
- The percentage of Americans saying personal safety is a very or somewhat significant source of stress increased from 29 percent to 34 percent—the highest percentage noted since the question was first asked in 2008.
Additional, significant causes of stress in 2016 included money (61 percent), work (58 percent) and the economy (50 percent). Poll respondents said they anticipate that personal health concerns (58 percent) and health problems affecting family members (57 percent) will raise their stress levels in the future.
When queried about topics that have added to their stress levels over the past decade, Americans are most likely to cite the economy (44 percent), terrorism (34 percent) and mass shootings or gun violence (31 percent).
MASSAGE Magazine spoke with bodywork practitioners regarding clients’ stress levels.
Massage therapist Susan Peterson, C.M.T., B.C.T.M.B., whose Loosen Up Massage Center is located in Costa Mesa, California, said her younger clients were most stressed immediately following the election, and that stress showed up in clients’ bodies as aches, pains, and compression around the neck and trapezius.
“They really needed to talk during their sessions,” Peterson said. “I don’t usually encourage that, but they needed to.” She said that while her younger clients have calmed down, now her older clients are presenting with more stress.
Massage therapist James Michael Foster, of Foster Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, in Owensboro, Kentucky, said his clients don’t seem to be showing any increased signs of stress.
Reflexology instructor and practitioner Karen Ball, N.B.C.R., L.M.T., said, “for a couple of weeks following the inauguration, people would really emphasize being so stressed, and then follow that with some comments about the uncertainty and the fear they were feeling. It was definitely affecting them physically as well as mentally and emotionally.”
Now, though, Ball said, her clientele is calming down—which is, after all, one of the primary benefits of bodywork and massage.
Click here to read the full report.
About the Author
Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief. Her articles for MASSAGE Magazine include “Body Image: Massage Creates Healthy Self-Connection,” “Massage Therapist Appointed to NCCIH Advisory Council” and “Meet the Massage Therapist to the President’s Executive Staff.”