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Survey shows who is stressed from politics and why

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Election and politics boost stress for Americans, poll shows

Results of two surveys conducted by the American Psychological Association find Americans are more stressed than ever. This is a first time stress has increased in since 2007 that psychologists say can take a genuine toll on health. The APA surveys show who is stressed and why it is happening.


According to the report stress levels in American were on an even course until the spring of 2016 when people started reporting increased anxiety about the 2016 presidential election.

Before the election Americans were most likely to report feeling anxious about money, employment, the economy or personal stressors. When the APA noted the election was having a direct impact on mental health in the U.S. they decided to explore factors causing the anxiety.

This is the first time the APA has looked into politics related to America's mental well-being by adding questions to their annual poll about the election that was conducted August, 2016.

Key findings from the survey included:

  • Fifty-two percent of those polled said the election was either a "very' or "significant' source of stress
  • People who reported being very or significantly stressed also scored higher overall on the 1 to 10 stress scale
  • 4 out of 10 respondents said political and cultural discussions on social media contributted to stress
  • Adults who don't use social media were, not surprisingly, less stressed about the election.

After the election

In January, 2017 the APA conducted another survey to better understand the potential long-term impact of political stressors, finding that 57 percent of American adults polled reported feeling anxious about the future of America and the outcome of the election.

The overall stress level in the U.S. rose from 4.8 to 5.1 percent on the 10 point scale.

Democrats (72 percent) as well as Republicans (59 percent) reported stress about our country's future.

Stress related to the outcome of the presidential election varies among age groups level of education and ethnicity

Among those groups, 57 percent of blacks and 56 percent of Hispanics of any race report the election result as a "very" or "significant" stress contributor.

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Other groups stressed about the election outcome:

  • 58 percent of millenials
  • 48 percent of "matures"
  • 45 percent of Baby Boomers
  • 39 percent of GenXers

More Americans with more than high school education (53 percent) are feeling nervous, compared to those with a high school education or less (38 percent).

Compared to August, 2016 the percentage of respondents anxious about terrorism rose from 51 to 59 percent. The number of people concerns about police violence toward minorities has also increased.

Reducing stress a health focus

The APA report also found more people are experiencing symptoms of stress in the past month that can have a negative impact on health.

More reading: How to get rid of stress in 20 seconds

The percentage of respondents who said they had symptoms rose from 71 to 80 percent between August, 2016 and January, 2017 that included headache, feelings of being overwhelmed, nervous, depressed, sad or anxious.

“We know that chronic stress can take a toll on a person’s health. It can make existing health problems worse, and even cause disease, either because of changes in the body or bad habits people develop to cope with stress. The bottom line is that stress can lead to real physical and emotional health consequences,” said Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, executive director of the APA.

This is the first time since 2007 that stress in America has increased significantly. Even respondents who think they handle anxiety better than they did ten years ago report needing better tools to manage stress.

Stress in America™ 2017 Snapshot

Updated: 2/19/2017