Biggest sources of stress for today's adults

Written by:
October 31, 2018

Biggest sources of stress for today's adults

On the surface of things, it would appear that Americans have never had it better. After all, things like food preparation, transportation, disease control and communication have never been more efficient. Yet as it turns out, Americans are generally more stressed out in the 21st century than they were decades ago, with women, young adults and low-income individuals experiencing the worst of it. Ultimately, however, there is no particular class, gender, group or ethnicity that doesn't experience at least some form of significant stress in their lifetime.

The truth is, between everything from personal struggles to political events outside of our control, there are no shortage of reasons to stress out these days. It's therefore no wonder that anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million Americans over the age of 18 every year, or that 8.3 million Americans suffer from severe psychological stress. One might even go as far as to say the very things that are supposed to liberate uslike technology or broader access to informationcan instead have a negative mental effect, creating moments of stress that might not have otherwise existed.

But what stresses us out the most? For the answer, Stacker consulted a Statista survey from February of 2017, which ranked the biggest sources of stress for today's adults. Each respondent was provided with a list of 23 options (21 specific stress-inducing aspects of life as well as "Other" and "None of the Above"), and asked to highlight all the options that applied to him or her. If the respondent didn't identify with any of the stress-inducing options, he or she would respond with "None of the Above". The "biggest" sources of stress are those with which the greatest percentage of respondents identified. All 22 sources of stress (plus "None of the Above") were then ranked from #23 to #1, with #1 being the most common instigator. Read the list at will, and don't let it stress you out.

#23. Other

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 2%

In today’s fast-paced and overstimulated world, the list of potential stress triggers is essentially endless. Social media, for instance, is just one among many potential sources of stress that wasn’t mentioned in the survey. If only 2% of the respondents put “other”, it’s because the other 98% weren’t thinking hard enough.

#22. Travelling to work

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 6%

Not to be confused with travelling for work, travelling to work entails leaving the home every morning to arrive at one’s job in a timely fashion. Naturally, there are plenty of potential things to stress one out along the way, such as rushing out the door on time, catching the train or fighting traffic, finding parking, and getting to work on time. 

#21. Conflicts with colleagues/boss

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 8%

Whether it’s a difference in personalities or a dispute over job performances, no one wants to be on the bad side of a colleague or superior. Naturally, these conflicts are a relatable source of stress among today’s working adults. In fact, that’s practically why human resources departments exist in the first place. If anything, 8% seems quite low.

#20. Severe illness of a close person

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 8%

According to a 2012 CDC study, about 1 in every 2 adults suffers from one or more chronic health conditions. Therefore, the odds of someone close to you getting a severe illness remain quite high. As one might expect, dealing with that illness can take a serious toll on an individual’s own physical and mental health.

#19. Constant availability

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 9%

One of technology's foremost benefits is that it connects us to one another with rapid precision at any and all hours of the day. Some people, however, consider that a hindrance, not a benefit, especially as it pertains to work. To help combat constant availability in New York, a new bill was recently proposed making it illegal to contact employees when those employees are off duty. However, the stress of constant availability isn't just a work-related phenomenon--occasionally people just want time to themselves. Go figure.

#18. Fear of job loss

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 9%

In this crazy age of widespread automation and consolidation, it would seem that American jobs are constantly under siege. The good news is that the unemployment rate is currently quite low, meaning if someone loses his or her job, there’s probably an opportunity lying in wait. The bad news is that the social or economic climate can change on a daily basis, making fear of job loss a completely justifiable source of stress.

#17. Caring for family members in need of care

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 11%

One potential reason why low-income individuals experience higher levels of stress might very well be that they can’t afford to hire an extra hand when they need one. Such a disadvantage can become particularly nerve-wracking when there’s a family member in constant need of care. Of course, tending to a debilitated love one is a cause for stress regardless of socioeconomic status, not to mention a perennial source of emotional struggle.

#16. Time pressure at work

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 11%

Just the word “deadline” is enough to make some people cringe with anxiety. It’s therefore no surprise that 11% of the respondents felt that time pressure at work was a significant source of stress. After all, there is usually a ton of work to be done, and only so many hours in the workday.

#15. Navigating traffic

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 11%

People are moving to cities in droves, and while local infrastructure does its best to keep up, a subsequent boost in traffic density is more or less inevitable. As a result, dealing with gridlocked traffic becomes a significant and unhealthy source of stress. Nobody likes feeling boxed in or stagnant when they’re literally on the move.

#14. None of the above

Share of respondents who saw none of the options as sources of stress: 11%

As it turns out, 11% of the survey respondents are living care-free lives, unable to think of a single thing that increases their stress levels (there is that "Other" category to choose from after all). To which the rest of the world might ask: what's your secret? Some will say it's a daily exercise regiment. Others might say it's quitting Facebook or disconnecting from the Internet for extended periods of time. The truth is, however, that those stress-free folks can say whatever they want, because no one really believes them anyway.


#13. Free time filled with too many appointments and duties

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 12%

A benefit of modern society is that it presents a constant slew of leisure activities like going out to eat, getting together with friends, watching movies, and traveling. A pitfall of modern society is that people are often so busy that they never get around to those leisure activities. As one might imagine, the paradox can be quite stressful.

#12. Family fights/trouble

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 14%

Acclaimed author Harper Lee once wrote in “To Kill A Mockingbird”: “You can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family". Yet we love our families anyway, occasionally to a fault. More to the point, family drama is a seemingly bottomless pit from which no topic or event can escape, and thereby a significant source of distress. 

#11. Caring for children/grandchildren

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 14%

One would imagine that caring for children would stress out a massive number of people in this era of overly cautious parenting, and yet only 14% of respondents identified with the option. Perhaps that’s because love ultimately overpowers any sense of dread or anxiety when it comes to tending to our offspring, a tradition that’s as old as mankind itself. Plus, so many people are getting help these days, and in so many different ways.


#10. Family obligations

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 14%

Part of being an adult is coming to terms with responsibilities and obligations, many of which center around family. It’s a fact of life and a major source of stress alike. On the bright side, the same family members who you look out for are usually the ones looking out for you.

#9. Relationship problems

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 15%

In an ideal world, the love between two human beings would so natural and permanent that no stress would ever result from it. Yet as anyone who's been in a relationship is likely to know, this is not an ideal world. Specifically, relationships are hard, they require work, and they can induce all kinds of stress. And while there are plenty of experts who can help reduce stress as it pertains to relationships, the fact remains that long-term love is no easy or sure thing.

#8. Household chores

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 17%

According to at least one 2010-11 study, doing chores around the house is more stressful than actually going to work, not to mention bad for one’s heart. Meanwhile, a separate 2011 study determined that performing household chores prevents the body from reducing a stress-related hormone called cortisol, making it harder to relax even after one’s chores are completed. In summary: 2010-11 was not a good time for household chores.

#7. Conflicts with close people

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 18%

In the view of psychologists, every human being comes equipped with a range of particular desires, many of which go unfulfilled throughout his or or her life. One reason for that is because other people--even friends and loved ones--have their own, occasionally incompatible, particular desires. Hence, conflict is inevitable, and frequently stressful to say the least.

#6. Health worries

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 23%

In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, health concerns are a major source of stress, however stress is a frequent source of health problems.That means the very health concerns causing a person stress might have been triggered by stress over health concerns. Brain-teasers aside, most human beings want to live long and fruitful lives, so it’s no wonder that so many people are stressed out over personal health issues.

#5. Stress/hectic of everyday life

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 23%

If someone alive 200 years ago were told about the advancements of modern society, he or she might suspect we’d be living in a utopia. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, as the hectic pace of everyday life prohibits numerous Americans from stopping to smell the convenience. In other words, along with this new form of society, there came a proportional number of new problems, many of which cause significant amounts of stress.

#4. Balancing family and work

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 24%

Some folks would argue that a successful balance between family life and work life is fundamental to happiness, but what about when there's an imbalance? Indeed, it's common for the demands of one arena to compromise the other, creating a stressful atmosphere that pulls at the individual from both directions.

#3. High expectation of myself

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 25%

In America, the pressure to achieve great things kicks in long before adulthood. Sadly, that pressure never really goes away, whereas capitalism often leads to a perpetual sense that one can always be doing more. A high expectation of one’s self will naturally follow, as will copious amounts of stress, some of it self-induced, and some of it invoked by society at large. 

#2. At work / in professional life

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 39%

In Spain, they take naps (i.e. siestas) every day starting around 2PM. Europe in general has the most paid vacation days in the world. In America, if you’re caught napping during the week you’ll probably wake up unemployed. Likewise, a significant number of employees don’t utilize their vacation days out of fear. Fear of falling behind. Fear of being disconnected. Fear of looking like something less than a dedicated employee. Is it any wonder that a whopping 39% of Americans view their professional life as a primary source of stress?

#1. Financial worries

Share of respondents who saw this as a source of stress: 41%

Whether or not money is the root of all evil might be up for debate, but there’s no debating its role as a major trigger of stress among Americans. Just how major? Try 41% of respondents claiming they feel stressed out due to financial worries. And in a country where a broad number of citizens are living paycheck to paycheck, that percentage isn’t likely to change any time soon.



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