The most common source of stress among American adults?
It’s not money or work, but concern about the nation’s future.
About 63 percent of adults surveyed said the future of country was a source of stress, a slightly greater share than the 62 percent who said money caused them stress and the 61 percent who said it was work that caused them the most anxiety, a report from the American Psychological Association found.
The results, released Wednesday by the professional organization the represents psychologists, also showed that just under six in 10 adults said the current political climate and current social divisiveness cause them stress.
“All of that paints a picture that people are generally concerned with what’s happening in the country and the uncertainty of where the country is going,” said the association’s chief executive officer Arthur C. Evans Jr.
He said the association started to notice a marked rise in people reporting stress caused by national issues in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, in which Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.
And those stressful feelings have remained steady since.
About six in 10 adults also said they consider this to be the lowest point in the nation’s history that they can recall, the study found.
“What was really surprising was how consistent that feeling was across all age groups,” said Evans, noting that survey respondents included people who lived through World War II and the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The surveys were administered online and polled 3,440 adults during August.
There were some notable differences based on respondents’ political leanings.
For example, among Democrats, 73 percent said the future of the nation was a source of stress, a significantly higher share than the 56 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents who responded that way.
The study also found that just trying to stay informed about the future of the nation these days is a stressful endeavor. About 95 percent of adults said they follow the news regularly, but a majority said that doing so causes them stress and nearly three-quarters said the media blows things out of proportion.
Evans cited the 24-hour flow of news, social media, and constant alerts on mobile phones as driving why so many people say they are stressed by the news. News-related content that features intense bickering and conflict may also be triggering stress.
“Our recommendation is people have to learn to turn off the flow of information,” and to consider what type of media they consume, “especially if they know this is something that causes them stress,” he said.
Consistent with all previous iterations of the annual survey, it found that women reported significantly higher stress levels than men, and that black and Hispanic men reported significantly higher stress levels than white men, on average.
Evans noted that failing to manage stress can cause a variety of physical and mental issues, including cardiovascular complications and obesity.
“These are not abstract ideas. Stress can have a real impact on people’s health,” he said.
There were however some silver linings in the survey results.
Just over half of respondents said the state of the nation has inspired them to volunteer or support causes they value, the survey found.
And about 53 percent said they exercise or take part in another form of physical activity to cope with stress, a significant increase compared to each of the past three years.
“It says that people are actively trying to manage the stress,” said Evans.Matt Rocheleau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele