Money is the top source of stress in our lives, beating out work, family responsibilities, and health concerns. That's according to the new Stress In America survey, conducted by Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association.
This news isn't super shocking—money has been the top stressor since the APA started conducting its annual survey in 2007. But this year's results show that our money worries could also be harming our health. One in five say they've skipped or considered skipping a visit to the doctor when they needed health care in the past year because of financial factors. And almost a third (32%) say that lack of money prevents them from living a healthy lifestyle.
Parents, younger adults (millennials and Gen Xers), and those in lower-income households are especially feeling the strain. Folks with children under 18 at home have higher levels of stress about money than non-parents. While average American stress levels are trending downward, 34% of parents say their overall stress has increased in the past year.
Millennials and Gen Xers are also more stressed about money than older generations. And, not surprisingly, folks with incomes under $50,000 also report greater stress over their finances. Like parents, these groups also say their overall stress levels have gone up in the last year.
Women tend to have higher levels of stress in general, and money stress is no exception: 49% of women say that paying for essentials is a major source of stress, compared with 38% of men. And women are more likely than men to say they feel stress about money all or most of the time.
That said, "Young or old, rich or poor, no group is immune to stress over money," noted Norman Anderson, PhD, CEO and Executive Vice President of the APA, in a briefing, pointing out that 64% of Americans overall say that money is a significant source of stress in their lives.
Unfortunately, the survey results also show that folks with higher money stress are also more likely to turn to unhealthy ways of coping with their stress, including watching TV for more than two hours a day, surfing the Internet, eating, drinking alcohol, or smoking.
In addition to finding healthy ways to beat stress (including exercise, of course), it's important to seek out emotional support. "Be proactive," Anderson said. "To build social relationships, you have to make an effort. Reach out to others—if you’re there for others, they’ll be more likely to be there for you."