What Are Americans Most Stressed Out About?

A new survey of 2,500 American adults offers insight into top sources of stress and how people cope.

Stressed out? You’re not alone. About half of respondents in a new poll of more than 2,500 Americans by NPR, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report having had a major stressful event or experience in the past year.


To explore what stress looks like in the U.S., the team surveyed adults across the country about their experiences with stress, how they perceived its effects, their attitudes towards it, and how they cope with it. The results are visualized in graphs and heat maps so you can stress out about whether your own experiences with stress are normal.

Personal health problems took first place for most common source of stress–60% of respondents attributed their high stress levels to poor health conditions. No surprise there. More intriguing were the findings among different age groups: young adults, for instance, were most stressed by having too many responsibilities. (Those coddled millennials. What happened to spending your twenties broke and freaking out about money, while making the most of your comparative lack of responsibilities?)

Perhaps not surprisingly, as stress often goes hand in hand with insomnia, the most common response to stress overall was sleeping less than usual–70% of people who said they’d had high stress levels in the past month reported skimping on sleep. But the intersection of stress and sleep can go the other way, too: 41% of the stressed-out respondents reported sleeping more than usual. Likewise with eating: 44% reported eating less when stressed, and 39% reported overeating. Other top responses to stress included excessive praying, watching TV, playing video games, and exercising less. (Interestingly, and perhaps as an oversight, the survey did not measure the frequency of alcohol or drug use as responses to stress.)

Check out the rest of the data in the slide show above, or go here for Harvard’s full report–then go take 10 deep breaths and get some sleep.



About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.


Attend Innovation Festival keynotes with Robert Downey Jr. and Janelle Monáe for free. Claim your pass now.