Americans Reveal Top Stressors, How They Cope
Century-Old Movement Launches New Era of Mental Wellness
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A new survey from the country’s leading non-profit mental health organization – Mental Health America – details the top life stressors in American life and the most common activities Americans engage in when feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Mental Health America, formerly known as the National Mental Health Association, releases the survey to coincide with the launch of a new vision and era of wellness for all.
“The majority of Americans struggles to find balance in the face of a multitude of challenges in our busy society,” said David L. Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. “How they choose to cope – whether it is distracting activities, exercise, talking through their troubles or more harmful measures of smoking and doing drugs – affects their mental health. If inappropriately or inadequately addressed, chronic stress and other mental health problems jeopardize the health and well-being of Americans and of the nation as a whole.”
Overall, the majority of people view their mental health and well-being as excellent or very good. Yet, they still feel besieged by financial, health and employment issues in their daily lives.
Nearly half of Americans (48 percent) are stressed by finances. Native Americans and African Americans pointed to finances as a stressor at a significantly higher rate, 57 percent and 56 percent respectfully, than Asians, 42 percent, Latinos, 49 percent, and non-Hispanic Whites, 47 percent.
Health issues stress more than 34 percent of Americans.
Employment issues are the third main source of stress for Americans (32 percent) – whether on-the-job or lack of work. Latinos, 41 percent, are most likely to be stressed by employment issues, followed by African Americans with 39 percent.
Parents feel the most stressed of all demographic groups. Nearly 40 percent report feeling stressed from at least three sources – among them relationships with significant others or family, employment and finances.
Native Americans, 37 percent, and African Americans, 38 percent, report significantly greater stress than non-Hispanic Whites, 30 percent, while Latinos, 34 percent, and Asians, 34 percent, report no difference.
Americans with a college degree are less stressed overall. And, a college education makes a difference in whether finances are viewed as a stressor – more than half of respondents with less than a college degree note financial issues as stressors in their lives.
People living with mental illnesses are far more likely to feel stress than those without such personal experiences. This increase in stress is primarily connected to their relationships with significant others and family, 72 percent. People with mental illness also feel stressed by employment, 47 percent, and health, 48 percent.
How Americans Cope with Stress
Watch TV, read, music
Talk to family / friends
Prayer and meditation
Smoke, drink, drug
Take Rx medications
- When faced with stress, a vast majority of people, 82 percent, turn on the television, listen to music or read.
- Family and friends serve as a solid support for 71 percent of those polled.
- Prayer or meditation is a recourse for 62 percent and exercise sustains 55 percent.
Africans Americans, 82 percent, are far more likely than other groups to use prayer or meditation as a way to deal with stress and anxiety. Native Americans and non-Hispanic Whites are more likely to engage in unhealthy coping skills to deal with stress – 30 percent of Native Americans and 28 percent of non-Hispanic Whites respondents drink, smoke or do drugs when feeling stressed out. Asian Americans are least likely to smoke, drink or use drugs to cope. Asians also have the highest likelihood, 77 percent, of talking to a family member or friend or exercising to manage stress levels, 70 percent.
Women (42 percent) were significantly more likely than men (31 percent) to eat as a coping mechanism for stress.
People living with mental illnesses are more likely to drink, smoke or do drugs to relieve stress, 42 percent, or take prescribed medications, 37 percent, talk with family, 74 percent, eat, 45 percent, and cut or injure themselves, 3 percent (fewer than one percent of overall pointed to self-injury).
Mental Health America – Bringing Wellness Home
These findings were released with the launch of Mental Health America and its new vision for mental wellness in the United States. Under its new name, Mental Health America is re-dedicated to improving the health and well-being of all people – especially children and adults living with mental health and substance use problems – by helping them live mentally healthier lives.
“As evidenced by this survey, each of us lives with daily stress as well as challenges – such as living with a chronic illness or experiencing a traumatic event – that can impact our entire lives,” said Shern. “The science base is deep on the relationship between mental health and overall health. We have the knowledge and experience to know how to improve the nation’s mental health. What we lack is a national response commensurate with the magnitude of the issue.”
Over the coming year, Mental Health America will engage the American public in a dialogue about mental health and wellness, and the important role it plays in each person’s life and in the health and success of the country.
Mental Health America advances its mission by:
· Educating the public about ways to preserve and strengthen its mental health;
· Fighting for access to effective care and an end to discrimination against people with mental and addictive disorders;
· Fostering innovation in research, practice, services and policy; and
· Providing support to individuals and families living with mental health and substance use problems.
About the Survey
The “Mental Health America Attitudinal Survey” was conducted by International Communications Research, an independent research company. Interviews were conducted via telephone and the Internet from October 10 to November 1, 2006 among a nationally representative sample of 3,040 respondents age 18 and older. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 1.75%.
“Part 1: Findings on Stress in America” is the first in a series of releases from the “Mental Health America Attitudinal Survey.” In the next few months Mental Health America will release additional survey findings addressing the stigma surrounding mental illness, veterans, holiday pressures and stress, perceptions of America’s health care systems, doctor-patient relationships and more.
Mental Health America is the country’s leading nonprofit dedicated to helping ALL people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 320 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation – everyday and in times of crisis.