One-fifth of Americans report feeling extreme stress, and 35 percent of the adult population says its stress level has risen in the last year. These results are according to a recent survey from the American Psychological Association (APA). The survey also found Americans aren’t getting the stress management we need from our health care system.

Findings from “Stress in America: Missing the Health Care Connection,” which was conducted online by Harris Interactive among 2,020 U.S. adults in August of 2012, suggest people are not receiving what they need from their health care providers to manage stress and address lifestyle and behavior changes to improve their health.

While Americans think it is important that health care focuses on issues related to stress and living healthier lifestyles, their experiences do not seem to match up with what they value, according to an APA press release.

Among the survey results:

• 32 percent of Americans say it is very or extremely important to talk with their health care providers about stress management, yet only 17 percent report that these conversations happen often or always.

• 53 percent of Americans say they receive little or no stress or behavior management support from their health care provider

• 39 percent saying that they have little or no behavior management support.

• 20 percent of Americans who report experiencing extreme stress

• More than two-thirds of U.S. adults with high stress (69 percent) say their stress has increased in the past year, yet 33 percent of U.S. adults say that they never discuss ways to manage stress with their health care provider.

Survey findings also show that Americans struggle to keep their stress to levels they believe are healthy, the press release noted. Even though average stress levels across the country appear to be declining (4.9 on a 10-point scale versus 5.2 in 2011), stress levels continue to surpass what Americans define as a healthy level of stress (3.6 on a 10-point scale). And for many Americans, stress is on the rise—35 percent of Americans say their stress increased this past year.

In order for our nation to get healthier, lower the rates of chronic illnesses, and lower health care costs, we need to improve how we view and treat stress and unhealthy behaviors that are contributing to the high incidence of disease in the U.S,” noted APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D.

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