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Stress about money was common among Americans

(RxWiki News) Money — or at least the love of it — may be the root of all evil, as the old saying goes. And it may also be the root of a lot of stress among Americans.

According to a new report from the American Psychological Association (APA), Americans have been stressing about money for several years now. What’s worrisome, according to the APA, is that people who are stressed about money may neglect other important areas of their lives, such as their health or relationships.

The good news, however, is that although many Americans are stressed about their finances, the overall amount of stress in the US may be going down.

“Since 2007, the Stress in America™ survey has examined how stress affects Americans’ health and well-being," according to the APA report. "This year, survey findings show that although overall stress levels appear to be trending downward, this drop is not shared equally. Those groups that consistently struggle with stress — women, younger Americans and parents —continue to report higher stress levels and are more likely to report that they have experienced at least one symptom of stress in the past month than Americans overall. Regardless of group, Americans continue to report stress at levels higher than what they believe is healthy, struggle to achieve their health and lifestyle goals, and manage stress in ineffective ways.”

Peter Strong, PhD, a psychotherapist and author of "The Path of Mindfulness Meditation," told dailyRx News that money worries can build on each other and distract patients from addressing other problems.

"Money can ignite feelings of powerlessness which in turn lead to worrying and other forms of emotional and cognitive reactivity which intensifies emotional stress while doing little to resolve the objective issues which will benefit from skillful planning and budgeting, etc.," Dr. Strong said. "If you really want to manage financial stress then you need to manage and resolve the underlying feelings of powerlessness."

The 2014 APA survey went out to more than 3,000 adults across the country.

The most common stressors for US adults were health concerns, family responsibilities, work (if employed) and money matters. Parents, younger people and those with a household income of less than $50,000 a year reported higher levels of stress than Americans overall.

Women often reported higher levels of overall stress than men and were more likely to report using unhealthy behaviors like drinking to manage stress. Women were also more likely than men to report higher levels of money-related stress.

Almost three-quarters of Americans said they felt stressed about money at least some of the time. Twenty-two percent said they had extreme stress about money.

Fifty-nine percent said that their stress about money had stayed the same over the last year, but 29 percent reported that their money worries had increased in that time.

Almost 1 in 5 said they had not seen a doctor for a necessary visit in the past year because of money concerns.

Some stress is often a normal part of life, but too much stress and how people handle their stress can affect health.

For instance, behaviors like watching TV, surfing the Internet and overeating — all common behaviors people use to manage their stress — can contribute to obesity. Smoking and drinking alcohol to excess can also damage health by raising cancer and heart disease risks.

Listening to music, talking to supportive friends and family members and exercising are among some of the many healthy strategies to help manage stress, the authors of this report wrote.

Emotional support can help people weather stressful situations. According to the APA report, millennials, parents and those in lower-income households said they could have used more emotional support than they had received in the past year.

The APA published this report online Feb. 4.

The report authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 5, 2015