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Stress-Free Living

Health Issues Stress Americans the Most

Reports of great a deal of stress are more than twice as common among people in poor health, according to an NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) poll released ton July 8th 2014. The survey examined the role of stress in Americans’ lives and found that about half of the public (49%) reported that they had a major stressful event or experience in the past year. Nearly half (43%) reported that the most stressful experiences related to health.

More than half of those who experienced a great deal of stress in the past month say too many overall responsibilities and financial problems were contributors (54% and 53% respectively). More than a third of those with a great deal of stress say the contributors include their own health problems (38%) and health problems of family members (37%).

A release from the Harvard School of Public Health quotes Robert J. Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at HSPH, as saying, “It is not widely recognized how many Americans have a major stressful event over the course of a year, or how often health problems are the cause.”

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO, said, “Stress touches everyone. Unfortunately, many of those feeling the most stress get trapped in cycles that can be very unhealthy. If we are going to build a culture of health in America, one big step we can take is recognizing the causes and effects not just of our own stress and the stress of those closest to us, but of others we encounter in our day-to-day lives. That recognition can go a long way in helping us create healthier environments in our homes, workplaces and communities,”

High levels of stress in the last month

About a quarter reported having a “great deal” of stress (26%) over just the past month. People in poor health are more than twice as likely as the public as a whole to report a great deal of stress in the past month (60%).

People who are disabled are also much more likely to report a great deal of stress (45%). Other groups likely to report a great deal of stress include those with a chronic illness (36%), those with low incomes (<$20K) (36%), those who face potentially dangerous situations in their jobs (36%), single parents (35%), and parents of teens (34%).

Significant impact on lives

Bad effects on emotional well-being (63%) are the most common health effect reported by those with a great deal of stress in the last month, followed by problems with sleep (56%) and difficulty in thinking, concentrating, or making decisions (50%). About half of those with a great deal of stress as well as a chronic illness or disability say stress made the symptoms worse (53%) or made it harder for them to manage their chronic illness or disability (52%).

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