at risk ’
APA’s latest survey finds that many Americans don’t
understand how stress can undermine their health.
BY SARA MARTIN • Monitor staff
First the good news: The percentage of Americans who report feeling extreme stress dropped 10 percentage points since 2007 when APA conducted its first Stress in
America survey, from 32 percent to 22 percent. On a scale of 1
to 10, the mean rating for stress in 2011 fell to 5. 2, the lowest
level in five years (it was 5. 4 in 2009 and 2010; 5. 9 in 2008; and
6. 2 in 2007). Extreme stress was likely highest in 2007 because
that was the start of the economic downturn, the researchers
It’s a vicious cycle since those with the highest stress are often
those with chronic conditions, said APA President Suzanne
Bennett Johnson, PhD, who also served on the panel, broadcast
live on the Web from the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
According to the survey results, while Americans without a
chronic health problem had a 5. 2 stress rating, people who were
depressed had an average stress rating of 6. 3 and people who
were obese had a 6.0 rating.
“Somehow our health-care system is not focusing on
[stress],” Johnson said. “It’s waiting until everybody is sick
and then handing out biomedical interventions to help you
with your disease, so we’re left with more people getting
chronic illnesses unnecessarily and increasing health-care
What’s the solution? Ensuring Americans have access to
psychologists through a team-based, patient-care approach
that can help people make lifestyle changes before chronic
diseases set in, the panelists said. Psychologists have a wealth of
evidence-based ways to help people reduce their stress, such as
helping them think in new ways and teaching them relaxation
techniques and time-management skills.