Why America’s stress levels aren’t dropping – Read APA’s latest report

The American Psychological Association (APA) has recently released a comprehensive report shedding light on the persistent issue of stress in the United States.

This report delves into the reasons behind the ongoing high-stress levels nationwide. In this concise summary, here are some key findings from the APA’s latest research, exploring why stress levels in America show no significant signs of decline [1]: 

Economic uncertainty

One major factor contributing to the sustained stress levels in the US is economic uncertainty.

Economic stability and financial security are paramount in reducing stress, yet many Americans struggle with job insecurity, income inequality and the rising cost of living [2]. These factors create a constant sense of financial worry, which can lead to chronic stress.

Work-related stress

Work-related stress remains a significant concern. The APA report highlights that most US workforce feels overworked and underappreciated [3]. This stressful work environment contributes to anxiety and burnout as employees struggle to find a healthy work-life balance. “Creating a psychologically healthy workplace is good for employees and business results,” according to Norman B. Anderson PhD, former chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association.

Pandemic fallout

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly played a pivotal role in perpetuating stress [4]. Although the pandemic’s initial shock has waned, its ramifications continue to affect mental health. Ongoing concerns about health, the economy and the uncertain future contribute to elevated stress levels.

Political and social division

The deep political and social divisions within the United States have not diminished [5]. These divisions have increased stress as individuals grapple with ongoing societal challenges, from polarization to social justice issues.

The report suggests that this division has created a continuous undercurrent of stress and anxiety.

Technological overload

The constant presence of technology in modern life has brought both benefits and drawbacks.

Steady connectivity and information overload can lead to stress and burnout. The report underscores the importance of balancing technology use to mitigate its adverse effects on mental wellbeing.

Mental health stigma

The stigma surrounding mental health issues remains a barrier to seeking help and support. The report highlights the necessity of reducing this stigma to encourage individuals to seek assistance and reduce their stress.

Coping mechanisms

In response to these persistent stressors, the APA report emphasizes that many Americans are not effectively dealing with stress.

Unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, overeating and avoidance, are prevalent [6]. These behaviors can exacerbate anxiety and contribute to a vicious cycle of mental health challenges.

Healthcare access

Access to mental healthcare remains a concern. Many Americans lack affordable and accessible mental health services, preventing them from seeking professional help to manage their stress effectively [7].

Racial disparities

The report also acknowledges that racial inequality in stress persists. People of color often face unique stressors related to systemic racism, discrimination and unequal access to resources [8]. Addressing these disparities is critical to reducing overall stress levels in the US.

In conclusion, APA’s latest report provides a sobering look at the ongoing high levels of stress in the United States. 

Economic instability, work-related stress, the fallout from the pandemic, political and social division, technological overload, mental health stigma, ineffective coping mechanisms, limited healthcare access and racial disparities all contribute to this issue.

To effectively combat stress, targeted efforts must address these systemic factors and promote mental wellbeing throughout the nation.

[1] https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/research-findings
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7233592/
[3] https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/03/workers-stressed
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8660126/
[5] https://carnegieendowment.org/2023/09/05/polarization-democracy-and-political-violence-in-united-states-what-research-says-pub-90457
[6] https://centerstone.org/our-resources/health-wellness/substance-use-disorder-healthy-vs-unhealthy-coping-mechanisms/
[7] https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/07/datapoint-care
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6532404/

Photograph: micens/Envato
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