Stress in America

Dr. Ducharme’s Blog for February 18, 2013

The American Psychological Association (APA) recently released it’s new Stress in America Survey. Findings from this study, which was conducted online by Harris Interactive among 2,020 U.S. adults in August of 2012, suggest that people are not receiving what they need from their health care providers to manage stress and address lifestyle and behavior changes to improve their health.

Millennials (age 18-33) in particular seem to have trouble managing their stress and getting health care that meets their needs. The Stress in America survey found Millennials reporting an average stress level of 5.4 on a 10-point scale, exceeding the national average (4.9). This generation also gives its health care lower marks than Americans across the country: Millennials are less likely than people nationwide to give their health care an “A” grade (25 percent versus 31 percent). Nearly half of Millennials (49 percent) do not believe or are not sure that they are doing enough to manage their stress, and few say they get stress or behavior management support from their health care provider. Only 23 percent think that their health care provider supports them a “lot or a great deal” in their desire to make healthy lifestyle and behavior changes, and just 17 percent say the same about their health care providers’ support for stress management.

So what is going on with these young people? Dr. Stephanie Smith, in her blog at points to the following issues these young people are dealing with:

Finding a job

Moving out of the family home

Saving for a deposit on a first apartment or a down payment for a first home

Finding a life partner

Determining when/if to have children

If they already have children, they are likely young and needy in terms of time, energy, financial resources, etc.

Deciding whether to pursue higher education, military service or volunteer work

These are all major life issues. And while some seem to move through these events with minimal difficulty, many find themselves feeling overwhelmed. If they can’t afford to live on their own they are often stuck living at home again under their parents rules. Too often they utilize poor coping skills such as inappropriate use of alcohol or drugs. Many are working to the point of exhaustion, forgetting or feeling unable to take time to relax. Others, especially those struggling to find a job, may show more regressive behaviors, lounging around, watching television, spending hours playing video games and becoming increasingly anxious about their future.

There are no easy answers. But there are some things that can be done to help decrease stress.

Get regular exercise

Try different relaxation techniques and find one that works for you. While some may enjoy a massage or yoga, others may prefer jogging or hiking.

Maintain at least one good friendship. Having someone you trust and to whom you can vent is really helpful in reducing stress.

Make sure you get adequate sleep. The idea that you must constantly be “crazy busy” is simply a crazy idea. And yet, many people seem to feel they will be seen as lazy if they are not living their lives on a treadmill.

Don’t skip meals. Healthy eating helps us maintain better physical and emotional health.

If you are really struggling, talk to a psychologist. Psychologists are doctors trained to help you learn to better manage your stress.

To read the full report, Stress in America™: Missing the Health Care Connection.

For additional information on stress, lifestyle and behaviors, visit APA’s Help Center and read APA’s Mind/Body Health campaign blog.

More from Dr. Elaine Ducharme

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