Stress through the ages (or, it’s good to be 65)

Younger people are way more stressed out than people over 65, according to a poll sponsored by the American Psychological Association.
HarrisInteractive has published data in its latest Healthcare Newsletter titled, “Adults Over 65 Experience Far Less Stress Than Adults in All Other Age Groups.”

These findings are part of a deeper dive into the APA’s report published in October 2007, Stress in America.

The highest levels of stress in America are in the 35-49 age cohort, followed by people aged 25-34.
6 in 10 people aged 35-49 say they are concerned about the level of stress in their everyday lives, and that they’ve experienced a high rating of stress in the past month (note that the survey was taken between August 31 and September 11, 2007, a time of the year not generally assumed to be as stressful as, say, Christmas holiday time full of family pressures and spending).
50% of people in that age group also say that their level of stress has increased over the past 5 years.
Contrast this pressure-cooker mental state with the “very positive mental health” outlook of 3 in 4 people age 65 and over. They’re not worried about the key stress drivers of money, family, hosuing costs, or work. But, they are most stressed about health, cited by 72%, and health-related problems of their spouses, partners or children (67%).
There are many causes of stress cited by the stressed-out. Most common factors are work, money, workload, kids, and family responsibilities.
Overall, the 4 most common causes of stress among the 35-49 year olds are, not surprisingly, money (cited by 80%), kids (for 73%), family responsibilities (among 67%) and housing costs (for 62%).
The negative health consequences of stress are especially pronounced in younger age groups: loss of sleep, which hits 1/2 of all age groups under 65; anger and/or fatigue, hitting 50-60% of those under 65; and upset stomach, headaches, sadness, muscle tension, and change in appetite experienced by 25-45% of people depending on age.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: It’s good to be 65! at least according to the APA’s findings. What’s of most concern here through Health Populi’s lens is the health impact of stress. Perhaps we should all learn from the meditative teachings of the late guru of George Harrison and the Beatles, the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who peacefully passed away earlier this month at the age of 91.
There is an hypothesis that Americans’ high level of stress vs. people of other nations has led to a higher prevalence of chronic disease in the U.S. This theory is explored in the essay, Difference in Disease Prevalence as a Source of the U.S.-European Helath Spending Gap, which HarrisInteractive cites in its newsletter.
In particular, the U.S. has a much higher prevalence of the costly conditions of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. A concerted public health effort of major import to stop smoking, reduce obesity and overweight, and get moving could yield lower spending in the United States. It’s not about the technology; it’s about public health.

About Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn is a health economist, advisor and trend-weaver to organizations at the intersection of health, technology and people. Jane founded THINK-Health after spending a decade as a health care consultant in firms in the U.S. and Europe. Jane’s clients are all stakeholders in health, including technology, bio/life sciences, providers, plans, financial services, consumer products, public sector and not-for-profit organizations. Jane founded the Health Populi blog in 2007, covering health policy, technology, and consumers.


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