A Quarter of Americans Are Stressed Out—And That’s Probably a Massive Underestimate

Health, family and monetary problems are top causes of stress, as are raising a teenager or being a single parent

Photo: Arman Zhenikeyev/Corbis

Stress is becoming the national psyche, it seems. One out of four Americans said they they suffered from significant stress levels over the last month, NPR reports, and half of those surveyed said that they experienced a major stressful event over the last year, such as the death of a loved one, a divorce or losing their job.

These were the results of a nationally representative survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. According to the compiled stats, a high proportion of people suffering from illness or a disability deal with "a great deal of stress." Stress is also high among people weighed down with economic or work-related worries, single parents and parents of teenagers—more than a third of people in these group reported high levels of stress.

The impacts of long-term stress on people's well being is thoroughly documented in the scientific literature. And stress did take a toll on the lives of the people who filled out the survey. Around 70 percent of respondents said that stress caused them to get less sleep than usual. Other impacts included eating too little or too much, exercising less, or oversleeping. 

The pervasiveness of stress in our society is likely even greater than the survey suggests. The survey only measures stress that people are conscious of, NPR explains, but research shows that people can suffer unaware from other forms of stress, which nonetheless still take a toll on their well being. As Princeton University psychologist Eldar Shafir told NPR, ""Everything I know suggests that this is a pretty massive underestimate."

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