March 10, 2022 -- A large majority of Americans are reporting high stress levels due to financial concerns, inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a new poll from the American Psychological Association.
Done March 1-3 by The Harris Poll, the annual “Stress in America” survey found that more adults rated inflation and the Russia-Ukraine situation as major stressors than any other issue asked about in the 15-year history of the poll. What’s more, money stress was ranked at the highest recorded level since 2015.
“The number of people who say they’re significantly stressed about these most recent events is stunning relative to what we’ve seen since we began the survey in 2007,” Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, the association’s CEO, said in a statement.
“Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope,” he said.
The top sources of stress were the rise in prices for everyday items due to inflation -- namely gas prices, energy bills and grocery costs -- followed by supply chain issues and global uncertainty. About 87% of respondents said inflation was a significant source of stress, followed by 81% for supply chain issues and 81% for global uncertainty. In addition, 80% said they were stressed about potential retaliation from Russia through cyberattacks or nuclear threats, and 80% cited overall concerns about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
These stressors come on top of struggles to deal with a 2-year pandemic and the effects on daily life, Evans said. About 63% of Americans said their life has been forever changed by the pandemic. The survey revealed continued hardships for vulnerable groups, widespread grief and a sense of loss, concerns for children’s development among parents, and unhealthy coping habits such as increased drinking and sedentary behavior.
American adults also reported feeling emotionally overwhelmed and fatigued, with 87% agreeing that it “feels like there has been a constant stream of crises without a break over the last two years.” About 84% said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is “terrifying to watch,” and 69% are worried that the invasion is going to lead to nuclear war. About 69% said they fear that “we are at the beginning stages of World War III.”
Although many people feel stress for different reasons, they often cite different political or social reasons as the source, she said.
“We don’t usually see 80% of people telling us that a particular stressor is stressful for that many individuals,” she said.
Money stress is also at an all-time high, even compared to recent surveys in the past year. About 65% of adults included in the recent poll said that money was a significant source of stress, up from 61% in June 2021 and 57% in February 2021. In addition, 65% said the economy was a significant source of stress, up from 59% in August 2021 and 58% in June 2021. Half of all adults surveyed said that housing costs were a major stressor, which increased from 46% in February 2021.
Adults ages 18-43 were more likely to say that money is a significant source of stress, and those 26-43 were more likely to say that housing costs and the economy were major stressors.
Strained social relationships and reduced social support during the pandemic have made coping with the stress harder, the poll found. More than half have reported relationship strain related to the pandemic. About 56% said they could have used more emotional support than they received since the pandemic started.
“We know from decades of research that healthy and supportive relationships are key to promoting resilience and building people’s mental wellness,” Evans said. “Particularly during periods of prolonged stress, it’s important that we facilitate opportunities for social connection and support.”