The survey included interviews with more than 2,500 respondents ages 18 and older conducted between March 3 and April 8, 2014. Of those who participated, around 49% reported having a stressful event in the past year. Of that group, 43% said it was health-related, with 27% reporting it was due to illness and 16% it was because of the death of a loved one.
Health-related stress incidents appeared to affect low-income people harder than those who were more affluent, with half of respondents who earned up to $20,000 a year reporting that their own health problems over the past years was the source of their stress, compared with 32% of people who were making $50,000 or above annually.
“Stress touches everyone. Unfortunately, many of those feeling the most stress get trapped in cycles that can be very unhealthy,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO in a news release. “If we are going to build a culture of health in America, one big step we can take is recognizing the causes and effects not just of our own stress and the stress of those closest to us, but of others we encounter in our day-to-day lives.”
More than a quarter of those surveyed who had experienced stress reported having a “great deal of stress,” of which, 74% said it had negatively impacted their health. Common conditions associated with stressful events that were reported in the survey were bad effects on emotional well-being, problems with sleep, and difficulties with thinking, concentrating or making decisions. About half of those who had experienced a great deal of stress and had one or more chronic illnesses reported that stress made their conditions worse, while 52% said it made it harder for them to manage their conditions.
Despite the role respondents who experienced a great deal of stress perceived it to play toward their health, many were optimistic about stress being less prevalent in their lives in the future. Only 28% said they expect stress to contribute to a major health problem in their lives.
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