80% of Americans say they are stressed out

December 26, 2017

When was the last time you felt “like a bundle of nerves”? Yesterday? Ten minutes ago? About 80% of Americans say they frequently (44%) or sometimes (35%) encounter stress in their daily lives, based on results of a poll of 1,49 adults released by Gallup on December 20. Just 17% say they rarely feel stressed, while 4% say they never do.

Americans were asked about their stress and time pressures in poll conducted between December 4 and December 11—prime Christmas shopping season. This is the first time that the study has been updated in a decade, after being asked each December from 2001 through 2007.

Although stress is common, time pressure is not the main culprit, 41% of U.S. adults say. The majority (59%) believe that they do have enough time to accomplish the items on their to-do lists. In fact, slightly fewer respondents today—41% now compared to 44% in 2004—say they lack sufficient time to get things done.

Americans’ current stress level is similar to what Gallup found in 2001, 2002 and 2007, as well as in an earlier measurement in 1994, when 40% felt frequent stress. However, more say they experience stress now than reported this from 2003 through 2006, when between 33% and 38% felt this way.

Age appears to be a major factor, the Gallup pollsters say, in whether one feels stressed and time-pressured. Those  respondents who are 50 and older —particularly those who are 65+—are much less likely to say they feel stress or lack the time they need to get things done.

Predictably enough, respondents with full-time jobs and/or children under 18 were the most likely to feel pressured. And lower-income Americans are shorter on time and higher on stress than middle- and upper-income adults.

Women and men are about equally likely to say they lack sufficient time, but women are more likely to report frequent stress (49% versus 40%, respectively).

Naturally, work and family obligations have a compounding effect, so that working parents are especially likely to feel short on time and stressed. By contrast, those who neither work nor have children are the least likely to feel this way.

In addition, there is a major technological factor that may be alleviating some types of stress, but causing other pressures. Much has changed in the past decade, not the least of which is the proliferation of smartphones, beginning with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. This technology may be providing some efficiencies in people’s lives, such as allowing them to shop more easily from home, do their banking online, keep tabs on work while out of the office, follow the news, and much more — thus enabling them to feel they are getting more done.

However, there has not been an obvious payoff in reduced stress. It’s possible that some aspects of the new technology, such as social media—and the perceived responsibility to be available at all times—are offsetting others in changing how much stress people experience.

Of course, Gallup comments, “Many other aspects of life could factor into how Americans feel about their time and stress, including their jobs, family structure, dining habits, the economy and today’s highly polarized political environment. From that perspective, despite some revolutionary and not-so-revolutionary changes in the past decade, people’s time management and stress haven’t changed too much.”

Research contact: datainquiry@gallup.com

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