In the past, it was difficult to get an accurate measure of how stress had changed over time. This is because people 50 years ago simply didn’t measure stress levels; it wasn’t the concern that it is now. But because of the status quo, the need to make more money, gain more accolades, or simply pay the bills—stress has become harder to ignore.
Stress Levels Skyrocket Since 1983
In 1983, a telephone stress survey was conducted. Now, almost three decades later, we get to compare the results of that survey with current numbers to see how stress levels have changed through the years.
The results of the research are published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Carnegie Mellon University’s Sheldon Cohen and Denise Janicki-Deverts analyzed the data from the 1983 phone survey and compared it with online surveys from 2006 and 2009. Perhaps not surprisingly, they found that stress levels have gone through the roof.
Most people showed increased stress levels. But women, poor people and those with lower education levels reported more stress in each subsequent survey. The group that experienced the most stress related to the 2008-09 economic catastrophe were white, employed, middle-aged men with college degrees. Researchers surmise this could be because the group had the most to lose when the economy took a downturn.
According to USA Today, “stress increased 18% for women and 24% for men from 1983 to 2009.” They also found that stress tends to decrease as people age, with those in their 30s reporting lower stress levels than those in their 20s, and so forth. Nearly every demographic reported higher stress levels in the 2000s than in 1983, anywhere from 10 to 30% more.
This particular report has been called “more credible than most stress surveys because of its scientific methodology.” And I think most of us would agree that we are living in more stressful times now than 20 or 30 years ago. This is particularly concerning due to the fact that high stress levels have been linked to a 50% increased chance of premature death.
David Spiegel of the Center on Stress and Health at Stanford University School of Medicine says, “Economic pressures are greater, and it’s harder to turn off information, and it’s harder to buffer ourselves from the world.”
He makes a good point. Not only do we, as modern adults, seem more preoccupied with getting more “stuff” and having more success, but we have a harder time escaping from the pressures of life. A vacation now isn’t what it was 30 years ago. We remain connected to our office, bill collectors, and everyone else with modern technology, and there really is only fleeting escapes from these constant demands. We are bombarded with reasons to stay stressed, if not from our own doings, than from mainstream media, making things like meditation, proper nutrition, and stress-blasting fitness all the more crucial.
Thankfully, there is information available you may use to understand how to destress.