National survey suggest Hispanics most affected by physical symptoms of stress, indicating stress may be a serious health concern for Hispanics, say psychologists

NEW YORK, NY – Stress has a greater impact on young people than parents believe and Hispanics are more likely than whites or blacks to report an increase in stress levels over the last year, according to a new national survey released today by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Teens and tweens were more likely than parents to say that their stress had increased in the last year. Nearly half (45 percent) of teens ages 13-17 said that they worried more this year, but only 28 percent of parents think their teen’s stress increased, and while a quarter (26 percent) of tweens ages 8-12 said they worried more this year, only 17 percent of parents believed their tween’s stress had increased. Similarly, only 2-5 percent of parents rate their child’s stress as extreme (an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale) when 14 percent of tweens and 28 percent of teens say they worry a lot or a great deal.

“It’s clear that parents do not fully appreciate the impact that stress is having on their kids,” says psychologist Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, APA’s executive director for professional practice. “What we’re seeing with stress is in line with existing research about parents’ perception of their kids’ engagement in risky behaviors. Parents often under report drug use, depression, and sexual activity in their children. Now it appears the same may be true for stress.”

Perceptions of Stress among Hispanics

Stress in America survey results show that adults in general continue to report high levels of stress and many report that their stress has increased over the past year. Seventy-five percent of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month (24 percent extreme, 51 percent moderate) and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year (42 percent). However, a greater percentage of Hispanics report that their stress has increased in the past year than in 2008 (50 percent in 2009 vs. 44 percent in 2008). And, Hispanics are more likely to report that their stress has increased than adults on average (50 percent vs. 42 percent national average).

Overall, many adults say they have felt the physical effects of stress in the past month, but Hispanics more commonly report experiencing symptoms of stress than other adults:

  —  53 percent of Hispanics compared to 47 percent of all adults report that they have lain awake at night;
  —  49 percent of Hispanics compared to 43 percent of all adults report fatigue;
  —  45 percent of Hispanics compared to 40 percent of all adults report lack of interest, motivation, or energy;
  —  44 percent of Hispanics compared to 34 percent of all adults report headaches;
  —  41 percent of Hispanics compared to 35 percent of all adults report feeling nervous or anxious; and
  —  34 percent of Hispanics and 27 percent of adults report upset stomach or indigestion as a result of stress.

While 44 percent of adults report that they exercise or walk to relieve stress, many people also say they rely on more sedentary activities to manage stress (49 percent listen to music, 41 percent read, 36 percent watch TV or movies more than two hours per day, and 33 percent play video games). While these activities may be helpful in alleviating stress, they do not provide the extra benefit of improving overall physical health or maintaining a more healthy weight that more active forms of stress management afford.

“The prevalence with which people living in the U.S. continue to report increasing and extreme stress levels is a real concern,” said Dr. Nordal. “Also, people say that their levels of stress and lack of willpower are preventing them from making lifestyle and behavior changes that are necessary for improving and maintaining good health. It’s clear that people need tools and support to better manage extreme stress in order to prevent serious health consequences. Unfortunately, our current healthcare system does not do a very good job in this regard. And insurance companies often don’t cover preventive services or the kinds of services people need in order to better manage chronic illness.”

Lifestyle and Behavior Change

Two-thirds (66 percent) of adults living in the U.S. have been told by a health care provider that they have one or more chronic conditions, most commonly high blood pressure or high cholesterol. The vast majority of adults indicated that their health care provider recommended lifestyle and behavior changes (70 percent).

Few adults 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. Further, only 48 percent of adults reported that their health care providers followed up with them to check on their progress in making lifestyle and behavior changes — such as quitting smoking, getting more sleep, reducing stress, exercising, losing weight, and choosing healthier foods.

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).

Stress in America is part of APA’s Mind/Body Health public education campaign. For additional information on stress and lifestyle and behaviors, visit or, read the campaign blog, and follow @apahelpcenter on Twitter.


The 2009 Stress in America Survey 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. This report also includes the results of a YouthQuery survey conducted between August 19 and 27, 2009 among 1,206 young people aged 8-17 years old. Results were weighted as needed for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.