Americans Are Officially Freaking Out

by Susan Andrews, PhD

The above headline is the conclusion of the 2017 Stress in America survey
conduced by the Harris poll for the American Psychological Association. Nearly
two-thirds (63 percent) of the people who responded say that this is the lowest
point in US history – and it is keeping a lot of them up at night. The poll, which is
the 11th annual Stress in America survey done by the APA, was conducted
online between August 2 and August 31. Only Americans who are 18 and over
and living in the United States responded. Interviews were conducted in English
and in Spanish.

The group of 3,440 respondents was proportioned in the following manner:
1,376 men; 2,047 women; 1,088 whites; 810 Hispanics; 808 blacks; 506 Asians;
and 206 native Americans

The data was weighted by age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, education and
household income to reflect America’s demographics accurately.
Those who are being kept up at night reported that they are worried about
health care, the economy and an overall feeling of divide between them and
their neighbors. One comforting thought is that their neighbors very well may be
lying awake and worrying too. Many people reported being stressed about the
future of the nation. Past surveys have reported that the top stressors were
money (62 percent) and work (61 percent). This year 63 percent report that their
top concern is the fate of the nation. Of interest, more Democrats (73 percent)
agreed that this was their top concern than Republicans (56 percent).
Nonetheless, the sentiment that this is the lowest point in our nation’s history
spanned generations, which includes World War II, Vietnam, and 9/11. Only 30
percent said that terrorist attacks are a source of concern.

Even though politics and specific names were not directly questioned, many of
the issues identified as significant sources of stress, are policy issues.
Bloomberg generated a chart that is reproduced below.

Health Care ___________________________________________ 43%
Economy ___________________________________ 35%
Trust Gov? _________________________________ 32%
Hate Crimes ________________________________ 31%
Crime ________________________________ 31%
Wars _______________________________ 30%
Terrorist Att _______________________________ 30%
High Taxes _____________________________ 28%
No Job/LoWage_________________________ 22%
Climate Change________________________ 21%

However, keeping up with the latest developments is an even larger source of
stress for 56 percent. Further, sources of news which include social media, cell
phone news apps, and network news media blowing things out of proportion
causes them even more distress, a whopping 72 percent.

Dr. Anthony Rustain, a professor of psychiatry at U. of Penn. suggests the
following ways to cut down on stress. 1.) Set guidelines for Social Media time
and time spent watching/reading about the news. 2.) Complete all other
important tasks before checking with social media or with other new sources.
3.) Don’t lie in bed with your cell phone in your face, scrolling through the social
media and news sources. 4.) Don’t check your messages, social media, or
news frequently during the day. 5.) Balance your day with relaxation methods,
such as meditation, music, entertainment, and physical exercise.

And, above all, remember to breathe.

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