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Stress in America Hits New High

All the usual suspects continue to heighten anxiety. Here’s how to curb yours.

Robert Roy Britt
3 min readFeb 2, 2021

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Stress levels in America are higher now than during a previous peak last spring during Covid-19 lockdowns, a new survey finds. And it’s not just you. Or me. In the Harris Poll, conducted in the days just after the presidential inauguration, 84% of U.S. adults said they’re feeling some level of stress.

On average, people ranked their stress level at 5.6, where 1 equals little to none and 10 represents “a great deal of stress.” The survey has been repeated four times since last spring, when the average stress level reached 5.4 before falling to 5.0 in August.

What’s causing it? Pick your poison. Here are the top stressors, based on the percentage of people who cited them as significant sources:

We all seem to largely agree on at least two things, regardless of political affiliation: Around eight in 10 Democrats, Republicans and independents each reported some level of stress; and about the same number of each said the future of the country was a significant source of it.

Back in August of 2016, the average stress level was at 4.8. Top concerns then included the upcoming presidential election, cited by 52% of people as causing them stress, while 38% said political and cultural discussions on social media were stress inducers.

“Nearly a year into the pandemic, prolonged stress persists at elevated levels for many Americans,” says Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, CEO of the American Psychological Association, which commissioned the surveys. “As we work to address stressors as a nation, from unemployment to education, we can’t ignore the mental health consequences of this global shared experience. Without addressing stress as part of a national recovery plan, we will be dealing with the mental health fallout from this pandemic for years to come.”

APA suggestions for managing stress start with doing something for yourself, even if in short bits at various times during the day. Watch some comedy, for example, and involve kids if you have…

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Robert Roy Britt

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB