April 1st, 2015

Stress in America: financial issues top list

Since 2007, the American Psychological Association has conducted its Stress in America™ survey, which measures attitudes and perceptions of stress among the general public, as part of its Mind/Body Health campaign. Recently released findings from the 2014 survey indicated that money issues have prevailed again as the leading stressor.

The survey noted that 72 percent of adults reported feeling stressed about money at least some of the time. Specifically, parents (34 percent), Millennials (36 percent), Gen-Xers (30 percent) and women (30 percent) report the highest finance-related stress rates. Lynn Bufka, Ph.D., associate executive director, Practice Research and Policy at the APA, explained that Millennials may appear to be adaptable, but as they enter a stagnant economy with the burden of student loans and unable to find jobs in their chosen field, they may feel overwhelmed.

“Older people have cycled through economic challenges so are more accustomed to this [situation] and have learned some coping skills,” she said. “Millennials are on their own trying to figure it out. They have to develop a set of skills. It’s a big transition for them.”

Bufka indicated that the 2014 report focused more closely on finances, factoring in the emotional support and how many people report not having it. “No support is the nexus of the issue. If you are stressed about money and don’t want to talk about it, that poses a dilemma. How do you deal with the stress?” she said.

One in five respondents (21 percent) said they do not have anyone they can rely on for emotional support. Eighteen percent indicate that talking about money issues is frowned upon and 36 percent reported feeling uncomfortable talking about money. Fourteen percent of respondents noted that they could have used much more emotional support during the past year.

The good news is that psychological intervention can help these individuals. “Psychologists can provide resources and tools necessary for emotional support,” Bufka said. She pointed out that stress, anxiety and depression are interconnected and need to be addressed. “Mental stress wears down the capacity to deal with things. You can feel overwhelmed and challenged. You have compromised decision making skills,” she said. “While it’s not possible or practical to get rid of all stress, individuals need to figure out how to handle stress in healthy ways. That is the goal of intervention.”

The Stress in America survey used Grid, Simple Scaled and Multiple Response questions. “Regardless of the type of question we are asking, we design questionnaires to be fair and balanced and we take into consideration the type of question and type of scales that are used to ensure that the results are accurate and will not yield biased data,” said Michele Salomon, director, project development, at the Harris Poll. “Asking different types of data brings richness to the survey findings and broadens your options for reporting on data.”

The survey results indicated that stress levels have decreased since 2007, although current levels are higher than what Americans believe are healthy. In addition to financial woes, Americans reported that work (60 percent); the economy (49 percent); family responsibilities (47 percent); and personal health concerns (46 percent) are also common stressors.

The full report can be found at www.stressinamerica.org

By Phyllis Hanlon

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