Society & Culture - Posted by Shilo Rea-Carnegie Mellon on Monday, June 18, 2012 12:13 - 0 Comments
Surveys reveal stress among U.S. groups
CARNEGIE MELLON (US) — In surveys of U.S. adults, women, people with lower incomes, and those with less education report more stress.
New research from Carnegie Mellon University’s Sheldon Cohen and Denise Janicki-Deverts uses telephone survey data from 1983 that polled 2,387 U.S. residents over the age of 18 and online surveys from 2006 and 2009 that polled 2,000 American adults each. All three surveys used the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), a measure created by Cohen to assess the degree to which situations in life are perceived as stressful.
“Differences in stress between demographics may be important markers of populations under increased risk for physical and psychological disorders,” says Sheldon Cohen. (Credit: Carnegie Mellon)
Straight from the Source
Cohen and Janicki-Deverts used the respondents’ answers to determine if psychological stress is associated with gender, age, education, income, employment status, and/or race and ethnicity, and if the distributions of stress across demographics were constant over the 26-year period.
Published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, the results show that as Americans age, they experience less stress and that retirees consistently report low levels of stress, indicating that retirement is not experienced as an adverse event.
Until now, comparing stress levels in individuals across the United States over time was not possible due to a lack of historical data that tracks stress using accepted comparable measures.
“We know that stress contributes to poorer health practices, increased risk for disease, accelerated disease progression and increased mortality,” says Cohen, a professor of psychology and leading expert on the relationship between stress and disease.
“Differences in stress between demographics may be important markers of populations under increased risk for physical and psychological disorders.”
Using the 2006 and 2009 surveys, Cohen and Janicki-Deverts found that those most negatively affected by the 2008-09 economic downturn were white, middle-aged men with college educations and full-time jobs. The authors suggest that this group may have had the most to lose since both their jobs and their savings were at risk.
Their results also show between a 10 and 30 percent increase in stress in all the demographic categories over the 26 years between 1983 and 2009, however Cohen cautions against drawing the conclusion that Americans are more stressed today.
“It’s hard to say if people are more stressed now than before because the first survey was conducted by phone and the last two were done online,” Cohen says.
“But, it’s clear that stress is still very much present in Americans’ lives, putting them at greater risk for many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders.”
The study was funded by Johnson & Johnson.
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