When it comes to clients scheduling a massage therapy appointment, stress is a main motivator. A report released Nov. 9 shows that Americans are stressed to the point that psychologists involved in creating the report fear stress may become a public health crisis.

Findings from the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2010 Stress in America survey signal an alarm about the long-term impact chronic stress could have on physical and emotional health, and the health of families as well, psychologists said in an APA press release.

“America is at a critical crossroads when it comes to stress and our health,” said psychologist Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D., APA’s chief executive officer and executive vice president. “Stress is hurting our physical and emotional health and contributing to some of the leading causes of death in this country.”

The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive in August. It shows that Americans appear to be caught in a cycle where they manage stress in unhealthy ways and lack the willpower and time to make healthy lifestyle or behavioral changes, the press release noted. Children as young as 8 years old are reporting physical and emotional health consequences often associated with stress.

“[O]ur health care system is not adequately addressing this issue or providing the behavioral health treatments that can help Americans,” said Anderson. “All of us, including the medical community, need to take stress seriously since stress could easily become our next public health crisis.”

Among the results:

• One-third (32 percent) of parents report that their stress levels are extreme. (A level of 8 to 10 on a 10-point scale.)

• Parents overall say they are living with stress levels that exceed their definition of healthy. (Parents report an average stress level of 6.1 on a 10-point scale while the average healthy level of stress reported by parents is a 3.9.)

• While many people feel it’s important to manage their stress (69 percent say managing stress is extremely or very important), few are being successful in their efforts (only 32 percent believe they are doing an excellent or very good job of managing their stress).

• Children and adults alike who are obese or overweight are more likely to report that they feel stress, and overweight or obese children report that their parents were often or always stressed over the past month.

• Children who are overweight are more likely than children who are normal weight to report that in the past month they have experienced physical and emotional symptoms such as trouble falling asleep (48 percent vs. 33 percent), headaches (43 percent vs. 28 percent), eating too much or too little (48 percent vs. 16 percent) or feeling angry or getting into fights (22 percent vs. 13 percent), all symptoms commonly associated with stress.

• Children who are overweight are also more likely than children who are normal weight to report eating (27 percent vs. 14 percent) or taking a nap (26 percent vs. 15 percent) to make themselves feel better when they are really worried or stressed about something.

• Nearly half of tweens (47 percent) and one-third of teens (33 percent) say they feel sad; one third of tweens (36 percent) and 43 percent of teens say they feel worried; and one-quarter (25 percent) of tweens and 38 percent of teens say they feel frustrated when their parents are stressed.

• Tweens and teens report that they turn to sedentary behaviors to make themselves feel better when they are really worried or stressed, such as listening to music (36 percent of tweens and 66 percent of teens), playing video games (56 percent of tweens and 41 percent of teens) or watching TV (34 percent of tweens and 30 percent of teens).

• More than half of parents say that it takes some or a great amount of effort to get their families to eat healthy foods (56 percent) and to get their families to be physically active (54 percent).

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight.

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