Spencer Platt/Getty Images
According to a new survey released Thursday by the American Psychological Association, Americans say they feel more anxious about inflation, global uncertainty and the war in Ukraine than they reported at the time. About any other issues in recent years.
“More than 80% of Americans said inflation and issues related to the invasion of Ukraine are major sources of stress,” says psychologist Vaile Wright, senior director of healthcare innovation. health at the American Psychological Association.
This is the highest number of people who have reported feeling stressed about a problem in the 15 years this survey has been conducted, she says.
“Typically, our highest stress levels are in the mid-60s, reaching, for example, 87[%] because inflation as a source of stress is truly staggering,” she says.
The current financial and global stressors come at a time when people are already feeling drained from two years of the pandemic.
“It’s like getting kicked while you’re down,” says Dr. Kali Cyrus, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University, who was not involved in the report.
And the survey found nearly two-thirds of those polled said their lives had been permanently changed by the pandemic, with Latinos and Asians significantly more likely to think this than white people.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
“The survey revealed widespread grief, a sense of loss, continued hardship for vulnerable populations, including communities of color,” Wright said.
Two-thirds of respondents agreed that with each new variant of coronavirus that emerges, they lose hope that the pandemic will ever end. On the other hand, there was a positive note in responses about the pandemic: 71% of Americans say they’ve gotten better at prioritizing what’s important to them during this crisis.
Concerns about money and the economy were also high, with 65% of respondents saying they were stressed by these issues. Concerns were more likely to plague Latinos and blacks than whites and Asians.
The pandemic has only added to a host of stressors that people from communities of color and low-income groups were already facing, Cyrus says.
“They are still struggling to work, is that enough money to pay my bills? Is that enough money for my children? Is that enough money to take care of my parents?” she says. “And then on top of that, we have to get out of town because someone died of COVID.”
The survey also found that – for the second year in a row – people are trying to cope with all the stress in unhealthy ways. Almost a quarter of respondents said they drank more alcohol as a coping mechanism.
And nearly 60% said they experienced unwanted weight changes, with an average loss of 27 pounds and an average gain of 26 pounds. This weight gain is slightly less than last year, when the average was 29 pounds gained.
“What this tells us is that stress causes people to eat more than they really want and some to eat less than they really want to eat, because we know that stress can affect people from different ways,” says Wright.
Stress has also affected people’s relationships during the pandemic, with 58% saying relationships were strained or ending. The issue most likely to fuel the conflict was the cancellation of events or gatherings due to COVID concerns. People have also fought over vaccines, mask-wearing and different views of the pandemic as a whole.
In the long term, if not well managed, high levels of stress can lead to increased mortality and morbidity, Wright.
“We know that stress can have physical consequences, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension,” says Wright. “Emotionally, it can lead to things like depression, anxiety disorders, sleep disturbances, which we also saw in the survey.”
However, the good news from previous research is that most people eventually recover from temporary stressors.
“It may take a while, but most people are resilient and actually recover,” Cyrus says. “But I think there are others who will have to work on it to really tap into our sources of resilience.”
This includes social support, she says: “I hope people will feel more activated and energized about bonding with friends and family because that’s one thing that builds resilience. .”
Giving yourself something to look forward to can be a huge help, says psychiatrist Dr. Jessi Gold of Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
It’s something she often tells her patients, she says. “I often say something like, ‘choose something to do in the next two weeks that’s right for you.'”
It can be something like getting a massage, going for a walk with a friend, or just reading a book. Anything that brings you joy and relieves some of the stress, Gold says.
Another thing that can help, adds Cyrus, is trying to regain control of your daily life by setting goals.
“That doesn’t mean they deny what’s going on. [in the world]but that they have something else to distract themselves, because you can’t worry about everything all the time,” she says. “Your brain just can’t do that.”