Americans are stressed out

Nearly half of the people included in a nationwide survey said they’ve had a major stressful event in the past year, with most people pointing to health-related problems as the cause of the stress.

NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a poll on stress this spring, surveying more than 2,500 adults across the country.

Forty-nine percent of people surveyed said they’ve had a major stressful event in the past year. Among that 49 percent, about 43 percent cited health-related problems as the root cause of the stress.

About 27 percent pointed to illness and disease as the source of stress; 16 percent said the death of a loved one.

The health issues were followed by problems with work (13 percent), life changes or transitions (9 percent), family events or issues (9 percent) and problems with personal relationships (6 percent).

The top three groups of respondents who said they had experienced high stress levels in the previous month were people in poor health, disabled or have a chronic illness.

The survey also looked at how the sources of stress vary by age. Young adults (18-29 years) most often felt overwhelmed by too many responsibilities (65 percent). Older adults (65 years and older), however, cited their own health problems (60 percent).

The survey also looked at how stress affected people’s behavior, particularly in areas that can affect health.

Among the respondents who said they had a great deal of stress in the previous month, the most common behavior change was sleeping less than usual (70 percent).

Other behavior changes included eating less than usual (44 percent), exercising less than usual (43 percent), attending religious services or praying more than usual (41 percent), sleeping more than usual (41 percent) and eating more than usual (39 percent).

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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