Latest News » Poll: What has Americans so stressed?

Personal health and finances are among the biggest contributors to stress.

It should come as a surprise to no one that many of us feel stressed, often on a daily basis. Stress has simply become a fact of life for most Americans — for both individual adults and entire families. As long as there are responsibilities to fulfill and deadlines to meet, there will always be stress surrounding those obligations. But as unavoidable as stress may be, what can and should be avoided — or at least reduced — is its effect on our physical and brain health. Unfortunately, not only is stress becoming more and more prevalent in modern America, it's also having an increasingly toxic effect on our mental health and outlook on life.

This past March and April, NPR conducted a joint poll with the Harvard School of Public Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to determine who in America is feeling stressed and why. Nearly half of the poll's respondents — approximately 49 percent — said they experienced "a major stressful event" within the past year. Over a quarter of participants — 26 percent — reported feeling "a 'great deal' of stress" in the one-month study period alone.

Here's what NPR and its partners found were the major contributors to stress among those polled:

  • 60 percent: Poor health conditions
  • 45 percent: Disability
  • 36 percent: Annual income below $20,000
  • 35 percent: Raising a family as a single parent
  • 35 percent: Raising a teenager(s).

"The data get particularly interesting when you dig in and look at how the factors vary among different groups of people," writes NPR's Scott Hensley and Alyson Hurt. "Young adults, for instance, felt the most overwhelmed by responsibilities, while older people were most likely to say that personal health problems were stressful."

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