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‘Stress in America’: Survey finds large majority of people experiencing long-term effects

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Photo: donskarpo/iStockphoto

Washington — The COVID-19 pandemic, recent political unrest and violence, and a troubled economy have contributed to 84% of U.S. adults experiencing at least one emotion associated with prolonged stress, results of a recent survey commissioned by the American Psychological Association show.

Researchers from the Harris Poll surveyed nearly 2,100 U.S. adults from Jan. 21 to 25. The most common emotions respondents reported experiencing were feelings of anxiousness (47%), sadness (44%) and anger (39%).

On a 10-point scale – with 1 point being little to no stress and 10 points being a great deal of stress – the respondents’ average stress level over the previous month was 5.6, the highest it’s been since the early days of the pandemic.

Among the most significant sources of stress, the future of the nation was cited by 81% of the respondents, followed by the pandemic (80%) and political unrest (74%).


APA offers the following tips to help manage stress:

  • Take a break from the news, social media and certain friends to avoid negative information or rhetoric that can drive up stress levels.
  • Practice “three good things” mindfulness: Reflect on three positive things – big or small – at the end of each day. Encourage your friends and family to do the same.
  • Practice self-care throughout the day (e.g., go for a walk, call a friend, watch a TV show) in 15- to 30-minute intervals.
  • Stay connected with friends and family to build emotional resiliency so you can support each other.
  • Keep things in perspective and try to reframe your thinking to reduce negative interpretations of daily experiences.

“Nearly a year into the pandemic, prolonged stress persists at elevated levels for many Americans,” APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr. said in a press release. “Without addressing stress as part of a national recovery plan, we will be dealing with the mental health fallout from this pandemic for years to come.”

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