DENVER, Nov. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More Denver residents say that their work, money and job stability are significant sources of stress than Americans nationwide, according to the American Psychological Association's (APA) Stress in America survey. More than 75 percent of city residents report significant stress from work and money -- a cause of concern for psychologists who worry about the effects of long-term stress and how it can contribute to chronic health disorders.
The survey released today reports that the number of Denverites who said their average stress level is in the extreme range is higher than those nationally. More than one-third (35 percent) rated their average stress levels as an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale (compared to 24 percent nationally). And nearly half (48 percent) said their stress has increased over the past year. Residents of Denver also more commonly report a variety of stress-related physical symptoms than others in the nation, such as muscular tension, which was reported by 37 percent of Denver residents vs. 24 percent nationally.
Such high and long-lasting levels of stress can contribute to serious physical health problems. Diabetes, heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure are just a few of the diseases linked to chronic stress. In the APA survey, nearly two-thirds (67 percent) of Denver residents said they have been told by a health provider that they have a chronic health condition. Conditions reported by Denverites include high blood pressure (31 percent), overweight or obesity (28 percent) and high cholesterol (23 percent).
"People living in Denver are not only significantly stressed but are also experiencing serious symptoms related to stress," said psychologist Dr. Stephanie Smith, the public education coordinator for the Colorado Psychological Association. "When stress is ignored or managed in unhealthy ways, it will most likely lead to further health problems. This is why it's crucial for people to pay attention to their stress levels and do something about it."
APA's annual survey reveals that nationally nearly a quarter (24 percent) of adults reported experiencing high levels of stress, and half (51 percent) reported moderate stress levels in 2009. Many Americans continued to report that they rely on sedentary activities and unhealthy behaviors to manage their stress (49 percent listen to music, 41 percent read and 36 percent watch television or movies).
Among Americans who received lifestyle change recommendations from a health care provider, few reported that their health care provider offered support to help them make lasting changes -- only 46 percent were given an explanation for the recommendation; only 35 percent were offered advice or shown techniques to help make changes; and only 5-10 percent were referred to another health care provider to support the adoption of lifestyle changes. In general, people cited a number of barriers in their efforts to make lasting lifestyle and behavior changes -- lack of willpower (33 percent); not enough time (20 percent); and lack of confidence (14 percent). More than one in ten people cited stress as the barrier preventing them from making lifestyle and behavior changes (14 percent of adults reported they are too stressed to make these changes).
Similar to the rest of the nation, Denver residents said they were prevented from following through with lifestyle change recommendations due to a lack of willpower (34 percent), lack of time (17 percent), too expensive (18 percent) and too stressed to make changes (14 percent).
The Colorado Psychological Association offers these tips to help manage chronic stress:
- Set limits. List all of the projects and commitments that are making you feel overwhelmed. Identify those things that you absolutely must do in order to survive. Cut back on anything non-essential.
- Tap into your support system. Reach out to a close friend and/or relative. Let them know you are having a tough time and accept their support and guidance. There is no need to face challenging life circumstances alone.
- Make one health-related commitment. One small step like cutting back on your caffeine consumption can have a positive effect. Studies show that without caffeine, people report feeling more relaxed, sleeping better and having more energy. Regular aerobic exercise, such as taking a brisk walk can lessen your anxiety and reduce your stress.
- Strive for a positive outlook. Looking at situations more positively, seeing problems as opportunities, having realistic expectations, and refuting negative thoughts are all important aspects of staying positive and trying to minimize your stress.
- Seek additional help. If feelings of chronic stress persist, or you are experiencing hopelessness or trouble getting through your daily routine, seek consultation with a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist. Psychologists are trained to help you develop strategies to manage stress effectively and make behavioral changes to help improve your overall health. For additional information on managing stress, visit www.apahelpcenter.org.
The 2009 Stress in America research was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the American Psychological Association between July 21, 2009 and August 4, 2009 among 1,568 adults aged 18+ who reside in the U.S. and an oversample of 202 adults aged 18+ who reside in Denver. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.
The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.
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SOURCE American Psychological Association