Stress is a huge factor in many chronic health problems. Image: Flickr / bottled_void / CC-BY-SA

Each year, the American Psychological Association releases a “Stress in America” survey. The conclusions of this year’s survey are mixed: Americans report slightly less stress overall, but more people report daily stress.

The Stress in America survey

Each year, the American Psychological Association surveys a select group of Americans to get a feeling for stress levels, reactions to stress and sources of stress. Compared to last year’s survey, this year the study participants reported a stress level of 5.2 on a scale of 1-10, 0.2 below last year’s reported level of 5.4. Thirty-nine percent of Americans say that stress in their lives is increasing, while only 17 percent of individuals report stress declining in the last year. Obese individuals reported stress levels at 6.0, and individuals suffering depression reported a stress level of 6.2.

Questions about the survey

The survey by the APA has been released for the last several years. However, there are serious questions about the level of authority or authenticity of the study. The biggest question is how statistically significant the study is. The whole survey was taken by just 1,226 adults in the United States. Extrapolating results from less than 1,300 people into generalities about the entire adult population of the United States can lead to statistical abnormalities that would not otherwise be true.

The causes and effects of stress

Even though the study may not be entirely statistically relevant, there are some important lessons to be drawn from the study. Money and work were two of the most often-cited stressors in American lives, and the economy was cited at 67 percent among the stressors. In the end, stress can cause health problems ranging from cardiac episodes to depression, obesity and diabetes. Stress is not the only cause of many of these diseases, but it is a major contributing factor to the chronic illnesses that take up over 75 percent of current healthcare spending.

LA Times

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