NPR: How Americans Really Experience Stress

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During the month of July, as I’ve been traveling from here to there, I have caught bits and pieces of NPR’s latest series on stress.  There have been some really interesting stories, and I’m sharing a few of my favorite highlights below.

For starters, there’s a piece on the overall picture of stress in America.  NPR teamed up with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health to conduct a survey of 2,500 Americans.  They found that 49% of respondents had experienced a major NPR stress image_Josh Neufeldlife stress within the last year, with the most frequent type of stressor being health-related.

When broken down by demographics, there were some interesting findings.  For example, young adults were more likely to name “too many responsibilities” as their primary stressor, whereas older adults named health problems.  Looking at income, people making below $20,000 named (perhaps unsurprisingly) finances and work problems as their biggest worries.  People making over $50,000 named work problems and too many responsibilities.  The most common response to stress? Seventy percent of people reported sleeping less than usual.  For more on these statistics, click here.

Another segment focused on the connection between food and stress.  A Harvard University researcher says, “When we feel stressed we seek foods that are going to comfort us immediately, but often times those foods lead to surges and crashes in hormones and blood sugar that increase our susceptibility to new stresses.”  Other researchers are looking into foods that make us more resilient in the face of stress.  For example, foods that are nutrient rich, specifically those that are high in omega-3s, help bolster against stress.  Some good stress-busting foods include:

  • Eggs
  • Dark, leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like sardines, salmon or canned tuna
  • Flaxseed
  • Dark chocolate

For more on the food-mind connection, click here.

One of the more upbeat and fun segments was about how Americans deal with stress.  Seventy-one percent of respondents said that connecting with friends or family is their go-to form of stress relief.  In terms of what works for people, turning to hobbies and time outdoors were reported as being most effective.  Click here for the article.  Actually, just watching this short video, put together using animations and live interviews of people talking about their favorite stress-relieving activities, sent me into a state of relaxation!

Other articles and radio pieces in the NPR series include:

-Katie Huffman

Top Image by Josh Neufeld for NPR

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About Katie Huffman

Katie is a Wellness Advocate with the Clergy Health Initiative. She has an undergraduate degree in History and French and a Masters degree in Gerontology; prior to her current position, Katie worked as a social worker in a retirement community in Chapel Hill. Outside of work, she enjoys gardening, spending time outdoors, baking, and hanging out with her husband, Noah, their daughter, Ada, and two kitties, Grady and Gracie.

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