Many business and finance sites place a great deal of weight on statistics, trends, and other hard data. So do I. But that doesn't mean I don't take other kinds of information into account.
In fact, I've found that when I look beyond the numbers it gives me a much better handle on what is really going on than the numbers alone. It's one thing to say, as many mainstream analysts do, that the U.S. is experiencing a jobless recovery. But if you go out and look around, read the stories and commentaries, and think about how people's lives have been affected when so many are struggling to find work and to remain afloat, then it's easy to see that the idea that things are getting better is more illusion or wishful thinking than reality.
Under the circumstances, the fact that the American Psychological Association's latest nationwide Stress in America poll shows that a great many people are finding it very hard to cope in the current environment is not a surprise. Here are some of the survey's key findings:
As the U.S. economy continues to struggle for the third year, findings from the 2010 Stress in America survey paint a picture of an overstressed nation. Feeling the effects of prolonged financial and other recession-related difficulties, Americans are struggling to balance work and home life and make time to engage in healthy behaviors, with stress not only taking a toll on their personal physical health, but also affecting the emotional and physical well-being of their families.
As the aftershocks of the Great Recession continue to be felt across the country, money (76 percent), work (70 percent) and the economy (65 percent) remain the most oft-cited sources of stress for Americans. Job stability is on the rise as a source of stress; nearly half (49 percent) of adults reported that job stability was a source of stress in 2010 (compared to 44 percent in 2009). At the same time, fewer Americans are satisfied with the ways their employer helps them balance work and non-work demands (36 percent compared to 42 percent in 2009).
While parents report similar sources of stress as the rest of the population (80 percent cite money, 72 percent cite work and 72 percent cite the economy as stressors), many also report that family responsibilities are a significant source of stress (73 percent). Results from the survey suggest that parents feel that they are under a great deal of stress (nearly one-third report feeling this way) and understand the importance of managing it (69 percent say managing stress is important). However, only one-third (32 percent) believe they are doing an excellent or very good job of managing their stress.
Stress has behavioral consequences which in excess could have physical consequences.
- Two-fifths of adults reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods because of stress in the past month.
- Nearly one-third said they skipped a meal because of stress in the past month.
More than four in 10 said they had lain awake at night in the past month.
- The most common physical symptoms of stress reported were irritability (45 percent), fatigue (41 percent) and lack of energy or motivation (38 percent).
(Hat tip to Time's It's Your Money blog.)