Stress Report

Anxiety text bubble Every year since 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) has commissioned the Harris Poll to do a Stress in America Survey. This survey is intended to measure the impact of various stressors on those who are 18 years old and older (18+) and living in the U.S.A. Each stressor is measured on a 10-point Likert scale, where 1 is either "little or none" and 10 is "a great deal" of stress. Given the nature of the sampling, no estimates of the theoretical sampling error can be made, as is generally true for polls.

Average reported stress levels decreased between 2007 and 2012 with slight but non-significant upticks in 2013 and 2015. The August 2016 poll showed the lowest overall stress rating to date. However, psychologists were continuing to report to the APA that their clients were increasingly upset about the political situation associated with the 2016 presidential election. In response, the APA commissioned another survey in January 2017. In late October 2017, the eleventh Stress in America Survey results showed the first statistically significant rise in stress (from 4.8 to 5.1 on the 10-point scale) since the first survey report in 2007.

In October, 2018, the 12th annual survey came out with 3, 458 respondents ages 18+ but also collected interviews with teens ages 15 through 17 (n=300). These teens helped fill out the age grouping of Generation Z (ages 15-21). Age groups formed other clusters: Millennials (22-39 years old), Gen Xers (40-53 years old), Baby Boomers (54-72 years old), and Matures ( ages 73 and older).

Violence in the forms of mass shootings and school shootings in America was identified as a major stress, especially for Gen Z. 75% of Gen Z  youth identified gun violence as a significant source of angst. The other age groups were also concerned: 70% of Millennials, about 60% of Gen Xers and Boomers, almost of 50% of Matures, and 70% of parents. Increased security measures in the schools did not offer reassurance for around 2/3rds of the respondents.

Gen Zers (27%) were much more likely to report their mental health to be fair or poor, while the other generations less often rated their mental health that way: Millennials (15%), Gen Xers (13%), Boomers (7%), and older adults (5%). A little over 1/3 of both Gen Zers and Millennials said that  they had received psychotherapy, while only about 1/4th of Gen Xers and even fewer Boomers (22%) and Matures (15%) claimed to have had mental health treatment.

The average reported stress level was 4.9 (on a 10-point scale), which was slightly down from last year's average. Breaking it down by age clusters: Gen Z, 5.3; Millennials, 5.7;  Gen Xers, 5.1; Boomers, 4.1; and Matures, 3.3.  Across groups there was much stress about the state of the nation. 56% of adults said that this is the lowest point in our nation's history that they could recall. 61% did not think that our nation's strength is improving.

Work and money topped the list of particular stresses, as they have throughout the survey years. Yet, in spite of all the present stress, 75% of Americans surveyed were hopeful about their futures.

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