In its annual stress survey, the American Psychological Association (APA) found that 22 percent of Americans reported feeling “extreme stress,” or enough stress to interfere with their ability to function. But while that statistic is dismaying, what’s more is that only 31 percent said stress affects their physical health and 36 percent mental health. Stress itself, as well as the lack of knowledge about the effects of stress on health, are partially to blame for many of the chronic health conditions plaguing this country, including diabetes and heart disease.
A side-effect of stress creating poor health is that poor health then creates more stress. The survey also looked specifically at caregivers – those who care for an ill or disabled relative – and found that they are significantly more stressed than the general population. While general respondents reported their level of stress as being 5.2 on a scale of 1-10, caregivers’ average stress level was 6.5. This comes as no surprise considering 55 percent of caregivers reported feeling overwhelmed by the amount of care they must provide.
And with the first baby boomers now reaching the age of 65, there will be a greater need for caregivers than ever before. Many of those roles are likely to be filled by millenials (ages 18-32) and gen x’ers (ages 33-46), two groups that happened to report higher stress levels than the other age categories. They reported average stress levels of 5.4 and 5.6, respectively, as compared to 4.9 for baby boomers (ages 47-65) and 4.5 for those 65 and older.
What all of the respondents aged 65 and younger have in common though are what they reported to be the biggest stressors in their lives: money, work, and housing costs. People over the age of 65 report family health problems as being the biggest stressor in their lives.
If you’re experiencing a great deal of stress in your life, it’s important to take into account how it’s negatively affecting your health. See a general practitioner for an annual exam and for advice on lowering stress levels and improving your health.