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More than 50 million dead in World War II. Another 250,000 during the Vietnam War. Enemy states on the brink of annihilating one another during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Commercial jetliners highjacked by terrorists and slammed into buildings that became deadly infernos on September 11.
While these could be considered disquieting moments in U.S. history, none make Americans nationwide feel as stressed as they do today, with more than half of the country claiming the U.S. is at its lowest point in history, according to a poll by the American Psychological Association.
“The uncertainty and unpredictability tied to the future of our nation is affecting the health and well-being of many Americans in a way that feels unique to this period in recent history,” Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer, said.
According to the study, concern about the union overarches typical stressors such as healthcare, the economy, and terrorism.
When asked to think about the nation this year, nearly six in 10 adults report that the current social divisiveness causes them stress. A majority of adults from both political parties say the future of the nation is a source of stress, though the number is significantly higher for Democrats (73 percent) than for Republicans (56 percent) and independents (59 percent).
On top of political woes, the most common issues causing stress when thinking about the nation are health care (43 percent), the economy (35 percent), trust in government (32 percent), hate crimes (31 percent) and crime (31 percent), wars/conflicts with other countries (30 percent), and terrorist attacks in the United States (30 percent). About one in five Americans cited unemployment and low wages (22 percent) and climate change and environmental issues (21 percent) as issues causing them stress.
Watching news is also stressful for the majority of Americans. While 95 percent follow news regularly to stay informed, 56 percent say that doing so is stressful and 72 percent believe the media is given to exaggeration.
“With 24-hour news networks and conversations with friends, family and other connections on social media, it’s hard to avoid the constant stream of stress around issues of national concern,” Dr. Evans said. “These can range from mild, thought-provoking discussions to outright, intense bickering, and over the long term, conflict like this may have an impact on health. Understanding that we all still need to be informed about the news, it’s time to make it a priority to be thoughtful about how often and what type of media we consume.”