Feature

Two-thirds of Americans say they are stressed about the future of our nation, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans, according to the APA report Stress in America: Coping With Change, released in February.

More than half of Americans (57 percent) say the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, and nearly half (49 percent) say the same about the outcome of the election, according to an APA poll conducted in January.

While Democrats were more likely than Republicans (72 percent vs. 26 percent) to report the outcome of the 2016 presidential election as a significant source of stress, a majority of Republicans (59 percent) said the future of the nation was a significant source of stress for them, compared with 76 percent of Democrats.

"The stress we're seeing around political issues is deeply concerning, because it's hard for Americans to get away from it," says Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, APA's executive director for professional practice. "We're surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most."

Nordal also noted that while APA is seeing continued stress around politics, the survey also showed an increased number of people reporting that acts of terrorism, police violence toward minorities and personal safety are adding to their stress levels.

These results come on the heels of an APA survey conducted last August that found 52 percent of Americans reported that the presidential election was a significant source of stress.

Between August 2016 and January 2017, the overall average reported stress level of Americans rose from 4.8 to 5.1, on a scale where 1 means little or no stress and 10 means a great deal of stress, according to the APA survey. This represents the first significant increase in the 10 years since the Stress in America survey began. At the same time, more Americans said that they experienced physical and emotional symptoms of stress in the prior month, health symptoms that APA warns could have long-term consequences.

APA's January survey showed the percentage of Americans reporting acts of terrorism as a very or somewhat significant source of stress increased from 51 percent to 59 percent from August 2016 to January 2017. Also, the percentage of Americans reporting police violence toward minorities as a very or somewhat significant source of stress increased from 36 percent to 44 percent during the same period. Since August, the percentage of Americans saying personal safety is a very or somewhat significant source of stress increased from 29 percent to 34 percent—the highest percentage noted since the question was first asked in 2008.

Reported stress varied by education, with 53 percent of those with more than a high school education reporting very or somewhat significant stress related to the election outcome, compared with 38 percent of those with a high school education or less. In addition, a greater percentage of Americans who live in urban areas said the same (62 percent), compared with those who live in suburban (45 percent) and rural (33 percent) areas.

These additional stressors may be affecting Americans' health. The percentage of people reporting at least one health symptom because of stress rose from 71 percent to 80 percent over five months. A third of Americans have reported specific symptoms such as headaches (34 percent), feeling overwhelmed (33 percent), feeling nervous or anxious (33 percent) or feeling depressed or sad (32 percent).

APA is encouraging Americans to stay informed, but know their limits when it comes to taking in information as one way to diminish the constant exposure to potentially distressing information and the resulting physical symptoms.

To read the full Stress in America report, visit www.stressinamerica.org.

For more information on stress, lifestyle and behaviors, visit www.apa.org/helpcenter. Join the conversation about stress on Twitter by following @APAHelpCenter and #stressAPA.

Political issues stressing Americans

Percentage of people saying they are stressed over the following issues:

  • 57%: The current political climate.
  • 66%: The future of our nation.
  • 49%: The election outcome.

Source: Stress in America: Coping with Change