Study: American stress on the rise; between Aug 2016 and Jan 2017 it rose from 4.8 to 5.1

AMANDA CUDA: After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Victoria Demos was working as a therapist in Greenwich Village, N.Y. And even during that fraught and terrifying time, she said, the patients she saw were not experiencing as much anxiety as the ones she’s seeing now.

“It’s much greater stress levels than I saw after 9-11,” said Demos, a licensed clinical psychologist with offices in New York and Westport. “It’s all been up pre-and-post election, and since the inauguration. People have a much greater sense of feeling unsafe.”

Though it sounds unbelievable, a recent study from the American Psychological Association shows Demos’s experience isn’t uncommon.

The survey showed the average reported stress level of Americans rose from 4.8 to 5.1 between August 2016 and January 2017.

The stress level is measured on one to 10 scale, with one being the lowest and 10 being the highest. The figures come from two Psychological Association surveys — one conducted in August among 3,511 adults 18 and older living in the United States, and one conducted in January, among 1,019 adults of that same demographic.

These numbers represent the first significant increase in the 10 years since the Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey began.

The jump wasn’t surprising to Demos. She said, during the presidential race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump — and since Trump’s election in November — people seem to have a greater sense of unease. “I think there are so many unknowns right now.”

The survey showed the average reported stress level of Americans rose from 4.8 to 5.1 between August 2016 and January 2017.

The stress level is measured on one to 10 scale, with one being the lowest and 10 being the highest. The figures come from two Psychological Association surveys — one conducted in August among 3,511 adults 18 and older living in the United States, and one conducted in January, among 1,019 adults of that same demographic.

These numbers represent the first significant increase in the 10 years since the Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey began.

The jump wasn’t surprising to Demos. She said, during the presidential race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump — and since Trump’s election in November — people seem to have a greater sense of unease. “I think there are so many unknowns right now.”

Escalating worry

Dr. Jeffrey Dietz, associate professor of psychiatry at Quinnipiac University, agreed.

Dietz, who is also in private practice in Fairfield and New York, said his patients’ concerns haven’t changed much since the elections, but the urgency of their worry has escalated.

“It’s like their baseline level of anxiety has gone up,” said Dietz, also supervising psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. “Whatever their stress level was before, it’s gone way up.”

Like Demos, he partly attributes that to the uncertainty of living under a new leader. “When you don’t know what to expect, it’s going to up your anxiety level,” he said.

Indeed, the January survey results showed that 57 percent of those polled said the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, and nearly half say the same about the outcome of the election.

The numbers also show that anxieties, to some degree, stretch across party lines. While Democrats were more likely than Republicans to be stressed by the election results (72 percent versus 26 percent), the majority of Republicans — 59 percent — said the future of the nation was a significant source of stress for them, compared with 76 percent of Democrats.

Not only are people stressed, but that stress is making them physically ill. The percentage of people reporting at least one health symptom due to stress rose from 71 percent to 80 percent between August and January. Symptoms included headaches, feelings of anxiety and depression.

Permission to unplug

One way people can do that is by limiting their social media diet, Wright said. Reading a constant stream of political stories — and the often combative comments that friends and relatives post on these items — is only going to contribute to anxiety, she said.

“After a certain point, people aren’t necessarily learning any new information,” Wright said.

Instead of binging on news, she recommended deleting apps for social media sites like Twitter and Facebook from phones, and only picking certain times of day to go online and digest the news.

(The original article appeared in the Connecticut Post)

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