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A stressed pug on a bed wrapped up in a blanket

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.

Overall stress on a regular basis

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.

Stress level by age

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.

Stress level by gender

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.

Percent of Americans very or extremely stressed by household income

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. 

Comparison of top five exercises generally and top five exercises to reduce 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.

Health behaviors by stress levels

Learn more about the state of health and wellness in America.

Read the Report

About the author:

Katherine Wernet

Katherine Wernet

Senior Campaign Program Manager


Katherine leads the salon and spa marketing strategy at Mindbody and is part of the team behind the Mindbody Wellness Index. While she started her career in film and television, a passion for small businesses won out and led her to Mindbody. She earned her MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management.

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