Americans are more stressed, worried, and angry than they have been in 13 years, according to a new report from Gallup, with over half of Americans saying they feel stress for much of the day.
For the annual report, which Gallup first launched in 2005, researchers asked individuals in 143 countries whether they had experienced a variety of positive or negative feelings the day before they were interviewed. The 2018 data for Americans is based on responses from over 1,000 people.
Gallup found that 55% of Americans in 2018 said they had experienced stress during a lot of the day, while 45% said they felt worried a lot and 22% said they felt anger a lot.
The researchers also found that Americans were among the most-stressed people in the world. According to the researchers, the share of Americans who said they experienced stress during a lot of the day (55%) was 20 percentage points higher than the global average of 35%.
According to the report, the countries with the highest percentages of individuals who reported stress were:
- Sri Lanka
- United States of America;
- Costa Rica; and
Further, the researchers found that 45% of Americans said they were worried a lot during the previous day, which was higher than the global average of 39%. According to the report, the most-worried country in the world was Mozambique, with 63% of respondents saying they were worried a lot during the previous day.
The researchers found that the percentage of Americans (22%) in 2018 who said they were angry a lot during the previous day was higher than it had been in years past, but it matched the global average. According to the report, the angriest country was Armenia, with 45% of respondents reporting they felt anger a lot during the previous day.
Americans between the ages of 15 and 49 were most likely to report feeling stressed, the researchers found. According to the report, about two-thirds of Americans younger than 50 said they experienced stress a lot during the previous day, with about half saying they felt worried a lot and at least one in four saying they felt anger a lot.
Stress, worry, and anger levels also notably varied by income level. Of those among the 20% of Americans with the lowest incomes, 68% said they felt stress a lot during the previous day, 56% said they felt worried a lot, and 25% said they felt anger a lot. In comparison, among the 20% of Americans with the highest incomes, 46% reported feeling stress a lot during the previous day, 41% reported feeling worried a lot, and 22% reported feeling angry a lot.
However, according to the report, Americans generally said they had more positive experiences on average than individuals in the rest of the world, with 64% of Americans reporting they had learned or done something interesting the day before, compared with an average of 49% worldwide.
Julie Ray, Gallup's managing editor for world news, said the findings were surprising. "What really stood out for the U.S. is the increase in the negative experiences," she said. "This was kind of a surprise to us when we saw the numbers head in this direction" (Chokshi, New York Times, 4/25; Ray, Gallup poll, 4/25).
Advisory Board's take
Kate Vonderhaar, Practice Manager, HR Advancement Center
One defining trait of Americans is that we like to be fiercely independent—but at work, this independence can sometimes be a negative. Our research has shown that one of the major reasons people face stress at work is because they overlook people who could offer support. This can be harmful to our lives, states of mind, and careers, as building many avenues of support is one of the best ways to succeed in the workplace.
That's why one of my major pieces of advice for anyone looking to reduce the stress in their work life—and get more done in the process—is to consciously seek out sources of support. For instance, at the start of a project, you should make a point of thinking about who can advise and support you along the way. To begin, ask yourself these three questions:
- Who has done this before and can provide expertise?
- Whose buy-in and support will I need?
- Who should I outsource some of the work to?
“Up to 50% of necessary support is provided by people in our secondary network”
When answering these questions, make sure you're thinking outside of the box and expanding the definition of who you typically consider to be on your "team." For example, did you consider your predecessor in the role? People in similar roles in other departments? People in other facilities? Research has found that up to 50% of necessary support is provided by people in our secondary, versus primary, network.
Beyond finding help for specific projects, aim to create your own "personal board of directors" who can both advise you in your current role and as you move through your career. This doesn't have to be a formal team, of course—just a mental "board" of people who you can go to when you need advice. Target a diverse group of five to ten individuals who can provide you with a range of perspectives, and with whom you actively invest in cultivating a relationship. And don't limit the support to people who can provide instrumental resources to make you better at your job; make sure to also invest in people who can help meet emotional needs—by listening, offering perspective, or giving you a pep talk—to help you feel better in the day-to-day.
Write out the roster of your personal board and make a point of connecting with each person regularly. Otherwise, the relationship may decay over time—and you may not even have realized. For a list of easy ways to connect—and two other easy ways to stress less—download the slides from our recent webconference on the topic.
Then, to learn more about how to fight stress, download our infographic on how to be a less-stressed leader.