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Money, Work Are Top U.S. Stressors, Survey Finds

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For the third year running, money, work and the economy top Americans' list of stressors, according to a survey on stress released by the American Psychological Association.

In the survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults and children, nearly three-quarters of the respondents report unhealthy stress levels in 2010, about the same as in 2009. Satisfaction with work-life balance drops from 42 percent in 2009 to 36 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, stress over job stability is on the rise, from 44 percent of people experiencing job stability concerns in 2009 to 49 percent in 2010.

Parents may underestimate the impact of stress on their families, the survey results revealed. While 69 percent of parents say their stress has little or no impact on their children, 91 percent of kids ages 8 to 17 report that they can tell when their parents are stressed.

The Stress in America survey was conducted online in August by Harris Interactive. Participants were 1,134 American adults, including 100 parents of children ages 8 to 17. In addition to that national sample, the survey queried 987 additional parents and 1,136 children ages 8 to 17.
Economic woes

As in years past, money woes were a leading cause of stress, with 76 percent of Americans reporting money as a significant stressor. Work stress was cited as significant by 70 percent of adults, and the economy was a significant source of stress for 65 percent of respondents. All three responses have topped Americans' list of concerns since 2007, with the exception of the economy, which did not appear on the survey until 2008.

Stress crosses generational lines, but Gen Xers (ages 32 to 45) report the highest levels of stress, at an average of 5.8 on a scale of 1 to 10. People over age 65 are the least stressed, with an average stress level of 4.4, and are almost twice as likely as the general population to say their stress levels have gone down in the past five years.

Money is the most common source of stress for all generations except for the over-65 crowd, who are more likely to cite the economy as their major stressor.

Kids, weight and stress

The survey uncovered a link between stress and weight among both adults and children. One-third of the children in the survey reported being overweight. The overweight children were more likely to report that their parents were stressed (39 percent versus 30 percent for normal-weight children).

Overweight and obese kids were also more likely to experience health problems related to stress, the survey found:

• 48 percent of overweight kids had trouble falling asleep, compared with 33 percent of normal-weight kids

• 43 percent of overweight kids had headaches, compared with 28 percent of normal-weight kids.

• 48 percent of overweight kids reported eating too much or too little, compared with 16 percent of normal-weight kids.

• 22 percent of overweight kids reported getting angry or getting into fights, compared with 13 percent of normal-weight kids.

Parental stress can affect children of any weight in a big way, the results showed. One-third of children surveyed believed their parents were often stressed or worried, and 40 percent said their parents' worries made the kids themselves sad. While only 8 percent of parents believed their children were highly stressed, one in five kids reported lots of worries in their lives.

Toll on health

Americans perceive stress as taking a big toll on their health, the survey found. Only 40 percent of respondents thought they were in good or excellent health, a number similar to the 44 percent who say their stress levels have increased in the past five years.

Two-fifths of adults reported eating poorly or overeating in response to stress in the past month, while 33 percent had skipped a meal because of stress. Over 40 percent had lain awake at night due to stress, while 45 percent experience irritability and 41 percent experienced fatigue.

Stress hit the unhealthy and obese harder, the survey found. Almost 30 percent of obese adults experienced high levels of stress, compared with 20 percent of normal weight adults. Those who rated their health as fair or poor had an average stress level of 6.2 compared to 4.9 for those who were in good or excellent health.

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