Middle-aged Americans experience more stress than counterparts in 1990s, according to new research. This is before the coronavirus pandemic changed the world.
New research shows that Americans were already feeling more stressed than they did a couple of decades ago. Findings suggest that no group is absorbing the effects of additional stress more than middle-aged people.
According to the study, most age groups reported a 2% increase more daily stress in 2012 than they did in 1995. However, middle-aged folks from 45- to 64-year-olds experienced 19% more daily stress than did their counterparts from the 1990s.
“If you feel like daily life is getting more stressful, it’s true,” said study author David Almeida, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State University.
“People feel like life is getting more stressful, and that there are more irritations and challenges, and that was even before the pandemic. While all adults said life was a little bit more stressful, life seems more stressful for adults in the middle,” Almeida said.
Based on the paper, reported stress contributes to a week of additional stressed time each year. The extra stress for middle-aged Americans means 64 more days of stress a year.
Researchers examined data from almost 1,500 adults in 1995 and about 800 different adults in 2012. They aimed to observe two groups who were the same age at the time the data was gathered but were born in different decades.
The researchers asked the respondents about stress in their lives for eight consecutive days.
The volunteers shared their stressful experiences throughout the previous 24 hours.
Among the questions were about arguments with family or friends and situations at home or work that overwhelm them. Respondents also answered questions about their stress levels and whether stress was affecting their lives.
Causes of extra stress
Almeida said that the causes of extra stress are a faster pace of life and information overload. Middle-aged Americans may be helping adult children and aging parents more now than their counterparts did in the 1990s.
The middle-aged group also faced lot of economic uncertainty, having faced volatile stock market and the 2008 recession. Almeida also mentioned the changes in many structural supports, such as employer-based pension plans.
Dr. Robert Roca, chair of the American Psychiatry Association’s Council on Geriatric Psychiatry, said that the authors could touch on additional stressors, but he expressed concern about the effect of the perspectives of the people on their answers during the interview.
“This is a provocative finding, and it seems to align with more recent data on who’s at risk for suicide,” Roca said.
Suicide rates has increased by 35% since 1999, according to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The highest rates are in middle-aged Americans.
“There seems to be a phenomenon here that merits more study,” Roca said.
How to reduce stress levels
“Try to organize the stressors you can have control over. If you’re worried about coronavirus, wash your hands regularly and practice social distancing,” Almeida said.
He added that a healthy diet and exercise can curb stress.
“When people are experiencing stress, our bodies are designed to move and engage. A good walk seems refreshing because that’s what your body wants to do,” Almeida said.
“Speak with a trusted confidante — a friend or spiritual adviser — or a psychiatrist or other psychological professional. And a sympathetic listener or ally may have a different view on how to improve things. Mobilizing hope is critical,” he said.