A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jun 17, 2012

Stress Levels in US Soar to Highest Levels in 30 Years

1982. Ronald Reagan is President. Britain's Prince William is born. The Falklands War and the Lebanese-Israeli conflict are launched and concluded. China formally adopts the policies that set it on its present course. Japan is a serious economic threat. There is a brief recession. Seems pretty mellow compared to now. But the end of American domination of the global economy was beginning to become a reality.

That was the last time that stress levels in the US were close to the levels to which they have climbed in the past year.

We suspect that no one will be particularly surprised. Household net worth has fallen 40% for the average US family. Joblessness remains at elevated levels by historical standards and incomes have been flat or down for most Americans for a generation. What's not be to stressed about?

Those with lower educational levels and lower incomes, factors that are intertwined in most research, show the highest stress levels. But in a reflection of the changing nature of societal roles, people under the age of 35 - and women - are also showing higher levels. Those over 55, not so much.

The evidence confirms anecdotal reports. Those without advanced education or technological skills, particularly at younger ages, are being left behind economically. Women have achieved unprecedented success in the workplace but labor under societal expectations regarding their dual roles, which often doubles the burden, the guilt and the stress.

The question is whether this tension is productive - and healthy - or whether it is a sign of deeper unresolved problems in the culture that has fostered them. JL

Nina Golgowski reports in the Daily Mail:
Feeling stressed? New figures reveal you're not alone.

Americans are more stressed out than they were 30 years ago with young women among those feeling the brunt of it a first ever assessment of individual stress levels in U.S. reports. A 10 to 30 per cent stress increase was found through surveys of approximately 6,300 Americans over the age of 18 in 1983 and again in 2006 and 2009 through all demographics.
Consistently women, those under the age of 35, individuals with lower incomes and those with lower educations were found the most stressed in all three years' surveys conducted by Carnegie Mellon University's Sheldon Cohen and Denise Janicki-Deverts.

The good news, the study found that as Americans age over 55 they reported their stress levels cooling with retirees showing consistently low levels.

Dr David Spiegel, a psychiatrist at Stanford University School of Medicine, found the upped figures as no surprise.

'Economic pressures are greater, and it's harder to turn off information, and it's harder to buffer ourselves from the world,' he told USA Today.
Gender: Consistently, stress among women has shown higher than men in the study done in 1983, 2006 and 2009
Age: Like females, those under 34 years of age have also consistently reported higher stress levels than others with those over 55 showing the least amount.

Dr Cohen notes that because the first survey was conducted by telephone in 1983 opposed to online survey in 2006 and 2009, there's potential for skewed absolute findings in whether Americas are more stressed than 26 years ago.

'But, it's clear that stress is still very much present in Americans' lives,' he said in a release, adding their attached risk of diseases 'such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders.'

In a separate co-authored report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in April, his team found that psychological stress affects the body's ability to regulate inflammation, potentially strengthening disease.

Because of this affect, chronic stress, his report notes, can be associated with 'depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, upper respiratory infections, and poorer wound healing.'


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