Mass shootings, 2020 election, health care top list of Americans’ biggest stressors

Seven in ten adults feel mass shootings and health care are ‘significant’ sources of stress, while nearly six in ten say the same when thinking about the upcoming election.

WASHINGTON — It’s important to follow the news. If one doesn’t at least keep tabs on what is going on both locally and on a national level, they risk becoming uninformed and unaware of what is happening all around them. That being said, following the news too closely can also cause a great deal of stress. If you’re skeptical about that notion, look no further than the American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” survey.

In this year’s survey, the top three stressors for Americans were mass shootings, health care, and the 2020 presidential election. All three topics are frequently brought up and debated in news coverage. The survey polled 3,617 American adults between August 1st and September 3rd, 2019.

The most significant source of stress for participants was mass shootings. In all, 71% of respondents identified these incidents as a significant source of stress. Amazingly, stress over mass shootings is only slightly higher than stress over health care, which clocked in at 69%.

Another 56% of participants said the 2020 presidential election is a significant source of stress. When compared to the edition of the survey leading up to the 2016 election, this represents a 4% increase in election-related worries.

Among Americans who experience healthcare-related stress at least sometimes (47%), the top reason given was the exorbitant cost of seeking treatment (64%). Survey participants who have private health insurance (71%) were more likely than participants with public insurance (53%) to cite health care costs as their primary source of health care stress. Overall, 55% of survey participants said they worry about paying off healthcare debt.

Perhaps predictably, stress over mass shootings saw an increase this year over 2018. While over seven in 10 survey respondents cited mass shootings as a significant source of stress in 2019, only 62% expressed similar sentiments in 2018. Regarding mass shooting anxiety, the research team also broke down their findings by demographic, and found that Hispanics were the most likely racial group to cite mass shootings as a significant stressor (84%). Coming in second were African Americans (79%), followed by Asian Americans (77%), Native Americans (71%) and Caucasians (66%).

Other stressors that increased compared to last year included climate change, which significantly stressed out 56% of respondents this year and 51% in 2018. Sexual harassment concerns also saw an uptick, rising from 39% in 2018 to 45% this year.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in our world right now — from mass shootings to climate change. This year’s survey shows us that more Americans are saying these issues are causing them stress,” says Dr. Arthur C. Evans Jr., APA’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “Research shows us that over time, prolonged feelings of anxiety and stress can affect our overall physical and mental health. Psychologists can help people develop the tools that they need to better manage their stress.”

Another of the survey’s more interesting findings was the disturbing year-over-year uptick in stress over discrimination. Since 2016, the percentage of survey respondents who have reported discrimination-related stress has steadily increased each year. In 2016 that percentage was 20%, today it is at 25%. Even more troubling, 63% of non-Caucasian respondents said that discrimination has stopped them from living a full and productive life. On top of that, 64% of LGBT respondents expressed similar sentiments.

It is also clear from the survey’s results that many Americans are somewhat unsure of where the country is headed in the future. Only 38% said they feel the nation is heading towards being a stronger country.

Still, 73% of respondents did say they are “hopeful” for the future.

The average overall stress level of respondents actually stayed the same this year compared to 2018. On a scale of one to 10, the average reported stress level was 4.9 in both 2018 and 2019.

Stress levels, did however, vary by generation. Generation Z adults reported the highest average stress level of 5.8, followed by Generation X at 5.5, Millennials at 5.4, Baby Boomers at 4.2, and older adults at 3.0.

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Ben Renner

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