November 14, 2019

Americans are citing health care, mass shootings, and the presidential election as significant sources of stress, according to the American Psychological Association's (APA) "Stress in America" survey released last week.

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About the survey

APA since 2007 has commissioned a national survey to evaluate the country's state of stress. The survey assesses the impact of stress on the general public, determines leading sources of stress, identifies how the public manages stress, and measures perceptions of stress. The Harris Poll conducted this year's survey on APA's behalf between Aug. 1 and Sept. 3. The online survey included responses from 3,617 U.S. adults.

The survey groups data based on generations. The survey defines:

  • Generation Z as respondents between the ages of 18 and 22;
  • Millennials as respondents between the ages of 23 and 40;
  • Gen Xers as respondents between the ages of 41 and 54;
  • Baby boomers as respondents between the ages of 55 and 73; and
  • Mature or older adults as respondents ages 74 and older.

Are US adults more stressed?

Overall, the survey found "stress levels have not changed significantly over the past few years," but the share of U.S. adults who report experiencing stress related to sociocultural issues has increased over the past year.

For example, the survey found mass shootings and health care were the two most commonly cited significant sources of stress. According to the survey, 71% of respondents to the latest survey reported mass shootings are a significant source of stress, compared with 62% of respondents in 2018. Health care was the second most commonly cited significant stressor cited in the latest survey, at 69%:

In addition, the survey found more U.S. adults view the upcoming presidential election as a significant source of stress when compared with the 2016 presidential election. For example, the survey found 56% of respondents reported the 2020 presidential election as a significant stressor—up from 52% of respondents who reported the presidential election as a significant source of stress in the months leading up to the 2016 election. According to the survey, 71% of Democrats said the upcoming election is a source of stress, while 48% of Republicans said the election is source of stress.

Why health care stresses US adults

Among the respondents who cited health care as a significant stressor, 64% said the cost of care is the cause of their stress. According to the survey, privately insured respondents were more likely than publicly insured respondents to cite the cost of care as the cause of their stress:

Other respondents expressed concerns about being able to pay their health care costs in the future. The survey found 55% of respondents are worried about being able to pay for health care services they might need in the future. According to the survey, privately insured respondents were more likely than publicly insured respondents to be concerned about paying their future health care costs:

Younger, LGBT adults more stressed about health care than older adults

The survey also found younger adults are more concerned than older adults about paying for health care services and accessing them in the future:

The survey also found LGBT respondents were more concerned about paying for health care services and accessing health care services they might need in the future than non-LGBT respondents:

How US adults feel about the future

According to the survey, respondents have mixed feelings about the future. The survey found 38% of respondents believe the United States is on a path to become stronger and 73% of respondents feel hopeful about their future.

Arthur Evans, APA's CEO, said, "There is a lot of uncertainty in our world right now—from mass shootings to climate change. This year's survey shows us that more Americans are saying these issues are causing them stress. While [there] are important societal issues that need to be addressed, the results also reinforce the need to have more open conversations about the impact of stress and stress management, especially with groups that are experiencing high levels of stress" (Perry, MinnPost, 11/8; Rappleye, Becker's Hospital Review, 11/11; Bates, TIME, 11/5; Behrmann, USA Today, 11/6; APA's "Stress in America" survey, 11/5).

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