Economic stress — bad for your health

Stress due to the economic downturn is causing more of us to be irritable, angry, sleepless, and self-medicating through food.

And stress in the workplace is costing business $300 billion a year, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), due to the loss of productivity, absenteeism, turnover and increased medical costs.

The APA completed its survey, Stress in America, in August 2008 — more than a month ago, well before yesterday’s biggest stock market fall in 4 years.

The APA warns that the levels of stress felt by Americans due to the financial downturn can wreak significant havoc on health. 46% of Americans are now worried about providing for their families’ basic needs. One can imagine this number will be much higher based on the past few weeks’ financial events.

A spokesperson from the APA warns, "Stress that people don’t feel they
have any control over" causes more concern. "It’s almost like a
different threat level."’

The key "significant sources of stress" among Americans, according to the APA, are:

  • Money, cited by 72% of Americans
  • The economy, cited by 69%
  • Work, reported by 68%
  • Relationships, mentioned by 59%
  • Housing, cited by 47%
  • Job insecurity, felt by 34% of Americans.

The APA recognizes that stress can increase ill health. The most
obvious health impacts of stress include fatigue (53%), lack of
interest and motivation, feeling depressed, headaches and muscular
tension. Over half of Americans say stress has caused them to lose
sleep in the past month.

Jane’s Hot Points: To deal with the stressors that we all feel
in this uncertain time, the APA offers several helpful tips:

Learn your own ‘stress signals.’ They might be anger or irritability, headaches or muscle tension, low energy.
Recognize how you deal with stress. If it’s increasing alcohol intake
or using food (either under-eating or over-eating), be aware and make
healthier choices.

Find healthy ways to manage stress. The #1 method, which has lots of
health benefits, is exercise, followed by meditation and talking with
friends and family.

Focus on changing one behavior at a time. If you’re beginning to quit
smoking, don’t pressure yourself with a major new dietary regime.

Take care of yourself: eat right, sleep sufficiently, drink lots of
water, and engage in physical activity. Healthy body, healthy mind!

Take time for yourself. Music, crafting, watching movies and satiric political YouTube videos can be therapeutic activities.

Reach out for support. Accept help from friends and family. Seek help
from mental health professionals if you feel they could help manage
stress and support changing unhealthy behaviors.

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3 replies »

  1. This is a powerful article. Stress related inflammation of any medical condition contributes to it’s worsening. I think the key in Jane’s article is the painful sense of helplessness that people are experiencing during this economic tsunami. This sense of powerlessness is fuel for all kinds of disaster – exercising power over smaller people for example, frustration turning to power fantasies, drinking to excess, self medication of all forms. I believe the simplest answers are sometimes the most helpful – a massage, a good meal with friends, optimism, hypnotherapy, and close emotional connection with someone you love and who loves you. I know that intimate sexual touch boosts the immune system and strengthens the brain to face the challenges of tomorrow. – Raymond Jones, PhD . http://www.aspencenter.org

  2. The economic downturn affects more than just people’s mental well being, it shows up in physical conditions as well. Implementing a regular massage into your routine has many more benefits than just making you feel good. The mental benefits are reduction of strees, anxiety and the overall feeling of well being. I think you will see more and more people replacing a regular massage with going out to eat during these increasingly stressful times.

  3. I believe that at least 50% of my patients’ conditions are stress related. We need more Pub Info on the risks of stress & modes of management.