If you've noticed that your level of stress has been creeping up slowly
over time, you are not alone. A study tracking the levels of stress in
the United States between 1982 and present day has revealed that women
are the most susceptible when it comes to piling on stress to the max.
For the study, researchers at Carnegie Mellon Universitylooked used three surveys done in 1983, 2006, and 2009 to compare changes in
stress levels. All three surveys involved roughly 2,000 adults in the
U.S. who were evaluated using the Perceived Stress Scale. The researchers looked at the levels of stress over
time, broken down by gender, age, race, education, income, and
The findings showed that between 1983 and 2009, stress had increased for almost every category they analyzed. Men's stress went up 25% over that period, while women's only went up 18%. However, at all three points when data was taken, women showed higher levels of stress than men.
This is particularly worrying as stress has been proven to be very bad for our health: it contributes to
poorer health practices, increased risk for disease, accelerated disease
progression and increased mortality. Differences in stress between
demographics may be important markers of populations under increased
risk for physical and psychological disorders. In other words, women are
going to be more likely to have health problems on account of our extra
The findings also revealed that people with the lowest levels of education and/or those who had the lowest income had the highest levels of stress. Minorities were more stressed than white people were, but when they accounted for all of the other demographic factors that difference went away. During the US financial crisis, middle-aged Caucasian men with college degrees and full-time jobs were affected the most, almost double the increase seen in any other demographic group.
According to the researchers, the rise in stress levels might be due to
the fact that "economic pressures are greater, and it's harder to turn
off information, and it's harder to buffer ourselves from the world." If there's any good news to be learned from this is that stress levels teeter off as we get older: 20-somethings were more stressed than 30-somethings, and retired people were less stressed than people still working.