Americans' stress is down for the first time in five years and at its lowest point since 2007, finds an audit of self-reported stress to be released today.
The USA's average stress level in 2011 was 5.2 on a 10-point scale, down from 6.2 in 2007, says the survey by the American Psychological Association. But that doesn't mean we're not feeling stressed — 39% of those surveyed say their stress rose last year; 17% say it dropped; and 44% say it stayed the same.
So why the decrease? The economic climate has improved little and stressors remain the same as in past years: Money is cited as a concern by 75% of respondents. Two-thirds cite work stress. And more than half say they struggle with relationships or health problems.
What's different, experts say, is the way we approach stress and what it means to be under stress. This decline in reported stress, they add, is likely because stress has become the new normal for life in the USA.
People have been under so much stress in the past few years that they've "adapted to it," says physician Paul Rosch, a clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College and president of the non-profit American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, N.Y. "We have more or less accepted it as a way of life, and it's not a new or novel source of complaint, compared to a couple of years ago. But that doesn't negate its prevalence."