Mind Matters: The APA and the state of the nation

“No matter their age, more than half [59 percent] of Americans believe this is the lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember.” This is the notable finding of the American Psychological Association’s August 2017, survey, “Stress in America: The State of Our Nation.”

The APA has been examining stress in America for over a decade in conjunction with the Harris Poll. This is the first time, however, where money and work were not the top stressors and where the “future of our nation” was. It is also noteworthy that while self-reports of overall stress symptoms have stayed relatively constant over the years of polling, reports of stress symptoms have risen. That is, more sleeplessness, fatigue, anxiety, and anger are being reported.

Healthcare and the economy are common concerns, but other issues include trust in government, crime and hate crimes, and terrorist attacks. Approximately one-quarter of adults voiced concern about high taxes, while about 20 percent considered unemployment and low wages to be stressors. Climate change and environment were also causes of stress for about 20 percent of those surveyed.

Women differ from men in reporting stress, and appear to be more affected by hate crimes, global conflicts, and terrorist attacks than are men. However, there is a difference of stress levels among men, dependent on their race. Black and Hispanic men report significantly higher stress than do white males.

In fact, there was a marked rise in stress in both black and Hispanic men and women in 2017 as compared to 2016. Sources of stress bear a racial divide. Almost 70 percent of Hispanics consider “the future of our nation a significant source of stress.” This is around 10 percent higher than white adults. More than 70 percent of black adults note, “this is the lowest point in our country’s history …” and are the least optimistic about the trajectory of the nation. African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans concur that the nation does not appear to be on a “stronger than ever” path.

While only 27 percent of white adults perceive hate crimes causing stress, the percentage rises to 40 percent for Hispanic adults and Native American adults; and it rises to over 40 percent for black adults. More than one-third of Asian Americans registered hate crimes as stressful for them.

Stress is often considered to have a geographical component. In the 2017 survey, however, such regional differences in stress were “non-existent.”

Feelings of uncertainty appear typical for much of the stress reported. Two-thirds of those surveyed say they are stressed by not only terrorism but also gun violence and hate crimes when asked about issues of safety.

In terms of health-related stressors, at least 60 percent surveyed list healthcare policy changes and uncertainty about health insurance to be of great concern.

Issues regarding money have always been addressed in surveys of stress. This year it was found that 30 percent of the people in the study found saving for retirement as stressful, one-third worried about being unprepared for expenses, while 25 percent worried that they would not have enough money for basic needs.

Are there some hopeful notes in this symphony of stress? Yes! Over half of those surveyed said the state of the nation has “compelled them to volunteer or otherwise support causes they value, and 59 percent have taken some form of action in the past year to address issues of concern …”

It is also remarkable that 87 percent of Americans surveyed agree, despite all their differences, that we as a nation need to “take a deep breath and calm down.”

Although some reported unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as smoking, more than 50 percent use exercise, walking, or other physical activity to reduce stress. Yoga and meditation are on the rise from the last survey; prayer and listening to music continue to be part of healthy coping mechanisms.

Likewise important for coping is our perceived system of support. Up from 66 percent in 2014, 74 percent of Americans believe they have someone in their lives who provides emotional support. Americans are also trending to see psychologists as a source of support and to help with stress management.

(This column summarized the findings reported in “Stress in America: The State of Our Nation.” at stressinamerica.org – http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/index.aspx.)

** The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ownership or management of Chadds Ford Live. We welcome opposing viewpoints. Readers may comment in the comments section or they may submit a Letter to the Editor to editor@chaddsfordlive.com



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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.



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