Americans believe discussing stress with their health care providers is important, yet many aren’t having the conversation, reports a new study from the American Psychological Association.
According to its annual Stress in America report, released last Thursday, 31% of Americans who categorize themselves as suffering from high stress never discuss stress management with their health care provider. Moreover, 32% of Americans say they believe it is very or extremely important to talk with their health care providers about stress management, but only 17% report that these conversations are happening often or always.
People who do have these conversations with their providers report a higher frequency of good relationships with friends and family, of doing well in school or their career, of having a healthy diet, and of achieving other healthy living goals, compared to those who say they get little or no support from their providers.
“We can’t make a causal statement here – we can’t say the support causes these things to happen – but it’s certainly highly correlated with healthy living in many domains,” said Dr. Norman Anderson, CEO and executive vice president, American Psychological Association, during a webinar last week.
The survey also suggests that Americans are struggling to keep their stress to levels they believe are healthy. Even though average stress levels across the country appear to be declining (4.9 on a 10-point scale vs. 5.2 in 2011), stress levels continue to surpass what Americans define as a healthy level of stress (3.6 on a 10-point scale.) What’s more, 35% of Americans say their stress has increased this past year.
Millennials (age 18 to 33) in particular seem to have trouble managing their stress and getting health care that meets their needs. Millennials surveyed report an average stress level of 5.4 on a 10-point scale, exceeding the national average. Nearly half of Millennials do not believe or are not sure they are doing enough to manage their stress, and few say they get stress or behavior management support from their health care provider. Only 23% think that their health care provider supports them a lot or a great deal in their desire to make healthy lifestyle and behavior changes, and just 17% say the same about their health care providers’ support for stress management. Millennials report jobs and money as their top stressors.
“It’s kind of a catch-22 for them. The poor job market resulted in many more of them going to graduate school, thinking a better education would get them a better job and then they accumulated a significant amount of debt through student loans, and then still got dumped out into a job market that, in this country, has been a problem now for a few years,” said Dr. Katherine Nordal, executive director for professional practice with the APA. “Combine that with possibly moving back home into a family situation and being frustrated with not being able to move on with their lives … the economy and the job market has really added to stress levels.”
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