wellness

Stress and America are in a complicated relationship

MELYNDA BARNES, MD, Clinical Director, Rory, VP Medical Affairs and Research, Ro

“America is at a critical crossroads when it comes to stress and our health” (1). Norman B. Anderson, CEO, American Psychological Association. 

In 2011, the American Psychological Association (APA)  published the findings of their 2010 Stress in America survey, showing that most Americans are suffering from moderate to high stress. Forty-four percent of people reported that their stress levels have increased over the past five years. 49 percent of the respondents listed fears about job stability, and other top concerns were money, work, and the economy (1). 

Seven years later, and America’s youngest adults, Gen Z are most likely of all generations to report poor mental health. They’re coping with gun violence, immigration issues, and sexual harassment (2). For the first time, the APA interviewed teens ages 15 to 17 to help provide insight into the experiences of the full range of Gen Z, which are teens and adults ages 15 to 21. Fifty-six percent of Gen Zs who are in school say they experience stress at least sometimes when considering the possibility of a shooting at their school. And 75% of Gen Zs report mass shootings as a significant source of stress (2). 

We know that chronic stress affects the body’s normal physiology and can have long-lasting negative effects on our health, which makes these findings more important than ever. 

In small doses, stress is “good” for you in that it has a role and a purpose. The flight-or-fight response helped our ancestors survive potential attacks from wild animals. But now, that response is activated when we hit traffic on the way home or when a deadline at work is moved up. The short-term effects of stress are not harmful; it is the long-term effects an “always on” stress response that leads to disease and disorder in our bodies. 

Below is a list of ways that stress can affect your body in the long-term (3):

  • Migraines and tension headaches
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Worsening asthma and emphysema
  • Increased risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Erectile dysfunction in men and worsen PMS in women
  • Increased risk of acid reflux and chronic abdominal pain
  • Missed periods in med
  • Worsened symptoms of menopause
  • Increased risk of infections in the testes, prostate, and urethra in men

It is important to learn how to manage stress to try and avoid the above list of potential health hazards that can occur or worsen due to stress. Stress management and relaxation techniques are two very important tactics for combating the stressors of everyday life. There will always be stressors that we cannot control,  but as individuals we do have the power to decide how we respond to stressors, helping to decrease the risk of developing unwanted complications of long-term stress.

This month, Roar will be highlighting different stress management and relaxation techniques that can help you improve your response to stressors and help you feel better throughout the day. It is important for us to provide a holistic view of healthcare and wellness to our members so that they can stay empowered and engaged in their health.


References

1. Stressed in America. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america Updated January 2011. Accessed August 2, 2019.

2. Stressed in America: Generation Z. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2018/stress-gen-z.pdf   Updated October 2018. Accessed August 2, 2019.

Insomnia Awareness Day facts and stats. Sleep Education. http://sleepeducation.org/news/2014/03/10/insomnia-awareness-day-facts-and-stats. Published March 10, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2019.

3. What does stress do to the body? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-and-the-body#1  Updated November 2018. Accessed August 2, 2019