WASHINGTON – Midwesterners reported more stress symptoms than people in any other region of the country,according to the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” study released Wednesday. “A lot of the systems of stress that were reported,physical as well as the emotional symptoms – irritability,anger,depression,anxiety – were higher in the Midwest than anywhere else,” Katherine Nordal,executive director of the American Psychological Association,said at a news conference.
Chronic stress can lead to serious health problems,including heart disease,obesity and a weakened immune system.
Almost 50 percent of Midwesterners reported feeling irritable or angry,compared to 43 percent in the East; 32 percent of Midwesterners have upset stomach or indigestion compared to 20 percent in the East,and 46 percent of Midwesterners reported a lack of interest,motivation or energy compared 37 percent to respondents in the East,according to the survey.
The results were surprising because “you sort of think of the Midwest as the heartland of the country,” Nordal said.
The higher percentages could be partially affected by responses from economically troubled Midwestern cities,including Detroit,Nordal said.
Almost 40 percent of respondents in Detroit said they were unsatisfied with work,compared to 25 percent nationally. Three-fourths of Detroit respondents said the economy was the top stress factor,according to the report.
Easterners reported having more stress,but fewer physical or emotional symptoms than Midwesterners,according to the study.
Easterners had a 5.4 level of stress on a scale of 1 to 10,compared to 5.2 in the Midwest,5.1 in the West and 5 in the South,according to the study.
Stress levels for the East increased 0.2 points in 2011 from 5.2 in 2010,while stress levels in the Midwest decreased 0.2 in 2011 from 5.4 in 2010.
“Living in New York,Washington,there’s a lot of high-stress job in those cities. It attracts people who are very motivated and excited about moving their careers forward,” APA President Suzanne Bennett Johnson said. “It’s also expensive to live in those areas of the country,and as we know the economy has really been in trouble lately.”
More respondents in the East named money and work as stress causers,while more respondents in the Midwest said the economy was a stress causer,according to the study. In all regions,respondents said money,work and the economy were the most common stress causers.
There is some indication that people who like challenges or stress gravitated to the East,Norman B. Anderson,APA CEO and executive vice president,said.
“When you just look at Washington,D.C.,data,there was a higher percentage of people who said they were energized by a challenge,” Anderson said. “They really felt that they needed challenge or wanted challenge in their lives,so they gravitated to a place that made that available to them.”
The survey also found that women have a higher level of stress than men,5.4 compared to 4.8,and that members of older generations are less likely to say that their stress has increased. More than half of caregivers feel overwhelmed by the amount of care an older family member requires and have a higher stress level than the general public,according to the study.
Harris Interactive conducted online interviews with 2,747 people who had agreed to participate in online research. For that reason,the report does not include a sampling error.
Reach reporter Jordain Carney at [email protected] or 202-326-9861. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.