Details of the new administration are prolific on news and social media, and Americans say it’s stressing them out.
A new report released Wednesday by the American Psychological Association (APA) reveals that 57% of Americans say the current political climate is a “very” or “somewhat” significant source of their stress, and close to half of Americans say the outcome of the election causes them stress.
In the report, which is part of the APA’s annual Stress in America study, 1,019 American adults were surveyed—including registered Republicans and Democrats—between January 5-19. 72% of Democrats said that the results of the election were a significant source of stress, while 26% of Republicans said the same. But overall, two-thirds of people said they were stressed about the future of the country, including nearly 60% of Republicans and 76% of Democrats.
“There is a level of stress about what’s happening in our nation that seems to transcend the political parties,” says Lynn Bufka, associate executive director of practice research and policy at the APA.
Before the election, the APA conducted a similar survey of Americans and found that 52% of people said the 2016 election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, including 55% of registered Democrats and 59% of registered Republicans. The latest survey suggests that stress over politics hasn’t abated.
The survey also measured other aspects of stress. From August 2016 to January 2017, stress over acts of terrorism increased from 51% to 59%, stress over police violence toward minorities increased from 36% to 44% and stress over personal safety increased from 29% to 34%. The APA says this is the highest percentage of Americans reporting stress over personal safety since the group began asking the question in surveys in 2008.
“People are reporting that they feel tense all the time,” says Kathleen Gildea, a licensed psychotherapist in Atlanta, Georgia, who is not involved in the APA report. “A lot of people tell me, ‘I’m afraid of what’s coming next.’” Gildea says that in some cases, she’s noticed that political stress has overshadowed the original reasons her clients started coming to her.
There were some demographic trends among stressed Americans. People with more than a high school education were more likely to report stress related to the election outcome compared to people with a high school education or less. People in urban areas also reported more election-related stress at 62%, followed by people living in suburbs (45%) and rural areas (33%).
The APA says it’s concerned about what sustained stress levels among Americans could mean for public health. In the APA’s survey, the percentage of people reporting at least one health symptom due to their stress rose from 71% in August to 80% in January. Reported symptoms included things like headaches, feeling nervous or anxious, feeling overwhelmed or feeling depressed or sad.
To deal with stress, Bufka recommends limiting the amount of time spent consuming the news and social media, and developing ways to cope with stressors. “Healthy habits that maintain our body and soul are important,” she says. “Sleeping well, trying to exercise regularly, eat healthily, maintaining important emotional and social relationships, are all things that make a big difference in terms of how we handle stress.”
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