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Stress Management Health Center

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As Economy Worsens, so Does Stress

80% of Americans Stressed About Economy
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 8, 2008 -- As the economy worsens, Americans' stress level is on the rise. Eighty percent of Americans said in a September survey that the economy is a significant source of stress, up from 66% in April.

The top stressors for Americans: money (81%), the economy (80%), work (67%), and health problems affecting the family (67%), according to surveys by the American Psychological Association (APA).

The stress is taking its toll on people's health and overall well-being. In 2008, more people reported stress-related physical and emotional symptoms than they did in 2007, and nearly half of adults said their stress has increased in the past year. More people reported stress-related fatigue (53% vs. 51% in 2007), feelings of irritability or anger (60% vs. 50% in 2007), and lying awake at night (52% vs. 48% in 2007).

Though most Americans think they are managing their stress well, less than half are exercising to deal with stress. Passive techniques seem to be more popular, including listening to music, which 52% of participants said they do to relieve stress.

There are also some unhealthy coping strategies. Forty-eight percent of people say they overeat or choose unhealthy foods to deal with stress. Eighteen percent drink alcohol to cope, and 16% smoke.

People should monitor their own stress levels and seek support, according to psychologist Katherine Nordal, the APA's executive director for professional practice.

"People's emotional and physical health is more vulnerable, given the high levels of stress in our country right now," she says in a news release. "Pay attention to what's happening around you, but refrain from getting caught up in doom-and-gloom hype. Take stock of your particular situation and what causes you stress. Reach out to family, friends, and trusted advisors. Research shows that receiving support from others is effective in managing stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, then consider seeking professional help."

Data were collected online through a partnership with Harris Interactive and the American Psychological Association. Participants lived in the United States and were at least 18 years old. Data were collected in several chunks. One survey, conducted between June 23 and Aug. 13, included 1,791 adults. Another conducted in April included 2,529 adults, and the one in September included 2,507 adults. The APA says no sampling error can be calculated.

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