Stressed Out in America
By Katherine Wernet
Stress is a part of nearly all Americans' daily lives, which can be detrimental to one's physical and mental health. As part of our research for the MINDBODY Wellness Index, we surveyed over 16,000 Americans. Over a quarter of people in America say they’re "very or extremely stressed" on a regular basis. Only 9% of Americans say they're routinely "not at all stressed." Whether stressors are tied to work, school, finances, or something else, they’re getting the best of many of us. Stress doesn't look the same across America, though. Some metro areas experience much higher levels of stress, and stress levels vary across age and gender.
Increased stress decreases with age
High stress levels appear to decrease as age increases. Thirty-four percent of 18-25 year-olds say they're regularly very or extremely stressed, while only 30% of 26-45 year-olds say the same. Only 19% of 46-65 year-olds report such elevated levels. It's possible that people learn coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety as they age. However, it could also be the case that younger adults feel increased pressures than previous generations. Social media can induce additional stress that may be contributing to this.
Women are more likely to feel very or extremely stressed than men
Women, too, report higher levels of stress, overall. Thirty-one percent of women say they're very or extremely stressed compared to only 21% of men. These higher stress levels for women can be seen across almost every top metro area in the US with the exception of two: Buffalo and New York City. More than half (54%) of the men in the New York City metro area say they are very or extremely stressed versus only 28% of women.
New York City sees the most stress; LA and Atlanta the least
The New York City metro area (New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA) has the highest percentage of residents who report they regularly feel very or extremely stressed at 38%. The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA and Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA metro areas see the least amount of extreme stress. Only 20% of residents in LA and Atlanta say they regularly feel very or extremely stressed.
The lowest and highest household incomes experience the most stress
Thirty-four percent of adults with household incomes of less than $30,000 and 28% of those with household incomes between $30,000-$49,999 say they're very or extremely stressed. Stress is relatively consistent among those with household incomes between $50,000-$149,999. However, stress levels pick up again for Americans with household incomes over $150,000. It's likely this is not the same financial stress that may be present for lower income brackets but could be work-related stress or family-related stress.
Reducing stress through exercise
One of the top reasons that Americans say they exercise is to reduce stress. Over a quarter of adults surveyed say they work out to reduce stress. Working out releases endorphins, prompts mindfulness, and boosts one's mood—all of which can help mitigate stress symptoms. But are the same quarter of Americans who are saying they have the highest stress levels the same ones who are exercising to reduce stress? Those Americans who say they're very or extremely stressed are more likely to say they exercise to reduce stress than people who experience less stress.
How do Americans work out to reduce stress?
The top five exercises among those who say they exercise to reduce stress levels are the same top five we see across the general population. Notably, though, significantly more of those who are sweating to de-stress are choosing Zumba®. Fewer are opting for weight/strength training.
Less stress, more health!
Nearly across the board, the healthy behaviors we asked about in our survey were correlated with stress. Engagement in positive lifestyle behaviors decreases as the level of stress increases. Interestingly, despite feeling very or extremely stressed, 41% of this group reports that they're still able to find time for play and having fun, and 36% report getting a full night's sleep.