Americans are very anxious and overwhelmed, according to a new national survey. Top stressors include inflation and global uncertainty related to fear of Russian retaliation and its invasion of Ukraine—on top of feeling life has been “changed forever” by COVID-19.
In response to this stress, Americans are engaging in such unhealthy coping behaviors as overeating and increased alcohol consumption.
To conduct the survey for its Stress in America report, the American Psychological Association partnered with The Harris Poll in February—and in light of recent events leading up to its release, the survey was supplemented by a late-breaking poll in March.
In another document, a press release, the APA said inflation, war and COVID-19 had pushed stress to “alarming levels.”
Sources of Stress
Top sources of stress were the rise in prices of everyday items due to inflation, such as for gasoline, energy and groceries (87%), followed by supply chain issues (81%) and global uncertainty (81%), according to the report. Parents were more likely than those who are not parents to list money (80% vs. 58%), the economy (77% vs. 59%), and housing costs (72% vs. 39%) as significant sources of stress.
Eighty percent of the survey’s respondents said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a significant source of stress, as are such potential retaliations from Russia as cyberattacks or nuclear threat, while 69% say they are worried about the possibility of nuclear war or that we are “at the beginning stages of World War III.”
Seventy-three percent of respondents say they are overwhelmed by the number of crises facing the world right now.
Additionally, although most U.S. adults (72%) say they are not as concerned about getting COVID-19 as they were in the early part of the pandemic, almost three in five (58%) say the pandemic overall is a daily stressor.
Forty-seven percent of Americans say that they have felt very lonely during the COVID-19 pandemic. And most U.S. adults (66%) say that “that with each new variant, they lose hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will ever end,” the report states.
Entrenched Unhealthy Behavior
“These serious stressors are coming at a time when the nation is still struggling to deal with the strain of the prolonged pandemic,” the report reads. “Close to two-thirds of adults (63%) said their life has been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the new survey. In addition, the survey revealed widespread grief and sense of loss, continued hardships for vulnerable populations, concerns for children’s development among parents, and entrenched, unhealthy coping habits.”
The report also noted that its last survey, which focused on the pandemic, had found that COVID-19-related stress was responsible for increased alcohol consumption and unhealthy weight gain.
“These unhealthy behaviors have persisted through the second year of the pandemic, suggesting that coping mechanisms have become entrenched—and mental and physical health is on a continuing decline for many as a result,” the report notes.
On the positive side, the report notes, 71% of Americans say they have gotten better at prioritizing what is important to them because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 53% enjoy having fewer plans than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, and 40% say “they have connected or formed relationships with people they would not have if it weren’t for the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Methodology: The 2022 Pandemic Anniversary Survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association between February 7 and 14, 2022, among 3,012 adults age 18+ who reside in the U.S. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.