At times, stress is a helpful tool capable of boosting energy and attention. Most of the time, though, stress is a negative force in a person’s life that triggers a host of unwanted effects.
Stress is a nearly universal human experience, so every person can benefit from learning about the condition. By understanding just how widespread and harmful stress is, a person can begin to take action against its effects.
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How Common Is Stress?
Regardless of age, sex, ethnicity and religion, no one is immune to the burdens of stress. Statistics demonstrate the widespread prevalence of this state of mind.
According to The American Institute of Stress:
- About 33 percent of people report feeling extreme stress
- 77 percent of people experience stress that affects their physical health
- 73 percent of people have stress that impacts their mental health
- 48 percent of people have trouble sleeping because of stress
Unfortunately, for about half of all Americans, levels of stress are getting worse instead of better.
The Global Organization for Stress reports that:
- 75 percent of Americans experienced moderate to high stress levels in the past month
- Stress is the number one health concern of high school students
- 80 percent of people feel stress at work
People who tend to experience particularly high rates of stress include:
- Ethnic minorities
- Single parents
- People responsible for their family’s health care decisions
Worldwide Impact of Stress
While stress is a significant problem in the U.S., the rest of the world is not immune to its harmful effects. Stress is a global problem with:
- 91 percent of Australians feeling stressed about one or more important parts of their life
- About 450,000 workers in Britain believing their stress was making them ill
- 86 percent of Chinese workers reporting stress
Prevalence of Stress Disorders
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder are stress disorders triggered by traumatic experiences. Currently, 3.5 percent of adults in the U.S. have PTSD during a given year. Acute stress disorder affects as many as half of all people exposed to a serious or life-threatening stressor.
Top Causes of Stress
Depending on a person’s thinking patterns and coping skills, almost anything can cause stress. Some of the most frequently cited sources of stress include:
- The economy
- Family responsibilities
- Personal health issues
- Housing costs
- Job stability
- Family health problems
- Personal safety
Common Symptoms of Stress
Once a source triggers stress, various symptoms emerge unless the person uses effective coping skills to manage the problem. The most common symptoms of stress and the percentage of people who experienced them include:
- Irritability and anger: 45 percent of people
- Fatigue or low energy: 41 percent
- Lack of motivation or interest in things: 38 percent
- Anxiety, nervousness or worry: 36 percent
- Headaches: 36 percent
- Feeling sad or depressed: 34 percent
- Indigestion, acid reflux or upset stomach: 26 percent
- Muscle tension: 23 percent
- Appetite changes: 21 percent
People may also experience:
- Sexual problems
- Weight changes
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Forgetfulness and lack of attention
Cost and Impact of Stress
Every day, people stay home from work, miss school, go to the doctor or even die because of the effects of stress. It’s estimated that American employers spend $300 billion every year on health care and lost work days linked to stress. Up to 80 percent of workplace accidents come from stress or stress-related problems, like being too distracted or tired.
Stress is a costly issue in other areas of the world, too. People in the United Kingdom (UK) miss 13.7 million days of work due to stress each year. The problem costs $14.2 billion in Australia and about $37 billion in the UK in lost productivity each year.
Stress and Co-Occurring Health Conditions
Stress affects the entire body and is linked to many co-occurring mental and physical health problems, like:
Long-term stress is often a contributing factor in many of the leading causes of death in the United States, including heart disease, cancer, lung disease, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.
High stress levels can often also lead to substance use. When stress is high and a person is desperate to relax, they may turn to alcohol and other drugs. Paradoxically, drugs and alcohol often increase stress in the long run, especially if an individual develops addiction or dependence.
Stress Prognosis and Outlook
The stress prognosis is based on factors like the source, intensity and duration of stress. It may also be affected by an individual’s available coping skills and social support systems. When stress is high and available coping skills are low, the effects of stress are more likely, which can shorten someone’s lifespan.
Diagnosing Stress Disorders
If someone suspects they have a stress-related disorder, they should schedule an evaluation with a medical professional immediately. For physical health symptoms, consider heading to a primary care physician. A mental health expert can address the psychological symptoms of stress.
Medical professionals can perform a series of tests and assessments to understand and identify the problem. Not only can they accurately diagnosis the disorder, but they can also prescribe helpful treatments to reduce symptoms.
Statistics on Stress Treatment
Stress treatment can add a tremendous amount of coping skills and supports to a person in a stressful environment. The best success will occur when treatment targets the source of stress directly, rather than the side effects of stress.
For example, if someone has high blood pressure, taking a blood pressure medication will help, but it will not resolve the source of the symptom: stress. The most successful treatments work to reduce stress and improve a person’s reaction to stress.
Most treatments for stress reduction focus on:
- Identifying the signs of stress
- Getting plenty of sleep and exercise
- Practicing relaxation skills
- Setting goals and establishing priorities
- Spending time with people you love
Treatments for stress can be extremely effective when started early and continued with consistency. If you live with both stress and addiction, help is available. Call The Recovery Village to speak to a representative about the damaging effects of substance abuse and stress in your life and explore your treatment options.
The American Institute of Stress. “What is Stress?” Accessed on April 13, 2019. American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition.” 2013. American Psychological Association. “Stressed in America.” January 2011. Accessed on April 13, 2019. Berger, F.K. “Stress and Your Health.” U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus, May 5, 2018. Accessed on April 13, 2019. Global Organization for Stress. “Stress Facts.” Accessed on April 13, 2019. Herscher, E. “Gender and Stress.” HealthDay, January 1, 2019. Accessed on April 13, 2019. Southern Louisiana Medical Associates. “The Science of Stress.” Accessed on April 13, 2019. Smith, J. “Here’s Why Workplace Stress is Costing Employers $300 billion a Year.” Business Insider, June 6, 2016. Accessed on April 13, 2019.
The American Institute of Stress. “What is Stress?” Accessed on April 13, 2019.
American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition.” 2013.
American Psychological Association. “Stressed in America.” January 2011. Accessed on April 13, 2019.
Berger, F.K. “Stress and Your Health.” U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus, May 5, 2018. Accessed on April 13, 2019.
Global Organization for Stress. “Stress Facts.” Accessed on April 13, 2019.
Herscher, E. “Gender and Stress.” HealthDay, January 1, 2019. Accessed on April 13, 2019.
Southern Louisiana Medical Associates. “The Science of Stress.” Accessed on April 13, 2019.
Smith, J. “Here’s Why Workplace Stress is Costing Employers $300 billion a Year.” Business Insider, June 6, 2016. Accessed on April 13, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.