When it comes to stress, apparently there is one gremlin that lurks at the top of everyone’s list: money.
The American Psychological Association just released their 2011 Stress in America survey, and the results are similar to last year’s (which we covered here): First, women are more stressed than men. Second, the number one source of stress is money. Followed by work, and then the economy.
75% of respondents in the survey said that money is a stressor in their lives. While sobering, we can’t say we were surprised by this.
Well, to these stats, we say, “Pshaw.” We have plenty to stress about, yes. We are working; caring for partners, family and friends; and trying to look cute and balance our budgets while doing it. But it doesn’t mean we have to live these statistics as our truth. It doesn’t mean that starting today, we can’t make concrete changes—or even tweaks—that will ease the stress in our lives.
We sat down with three different psychologists (including one who ran the study) and got their fresh, for-LearnVest-readers-only advice on what’s causing all the stress—financial and otherwise—and how to deal with it.
Why Are Women More Stressed?
According to the APA study, historically women report higher levels of stress than men, and this year is no exception. On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is little/no stress and 10 is a great deal of stress, men reported a stress level of 4.8 whereas women reported a stress level of 5.4. But more disturbingly, many more women than men reported a dangerously high level of stress (from 8-10), 27% compared to 16%.
“It’s a national trend that women are more stressed than men,” says Dr. Norman B. Anderson, CEO of the American Psychological Association. “One hypothesis is that women are exposed to more stressful situations than men; they not only have their own working lives, but also tend to take on more responsibilities in the home. The other theory is that women are more comfortable with reporting higher levels of stress.”
Dr. Helen Coons, president and clinical director of Women’s Mental Health Associates, doesn’t think it’s just the self-reporting phenomenon. “It’s the socioeconomic and relational context of women’s lives here in America. A high percentage of women have dependent children, work outside the home, and then come home to a second shift, often with inadequate support. We still see gender inequity. Women earn less, and if they’re employed part-time, they’re less likely to have health benefits and financial resources.”
In other words, we’re more stressed because we actually do have it tougher.
Do Women Have It Tougher When It Comes to Money?
“Women have been disenfranchised,” adds Dr. Kate Levinson, psychotherapist and author of “Emotional Currency: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Healthy Relationship with Money.” “Society doesn’t empower us. We’ve been acculturated to stay dumb about money–legally, and culturally for generations. It is so new for women to have so much access to and control over money.”
But we can’t “stay dumb” about money, insists Dr. Levinson. “It limits our options in the world, not to mention feelings of self-worth and competency.”
Which, we would venture to say, has something to do with that stress we all say we’re feeling.
By the way, if you’re not convinced you should care about stress, research has long confirmed that there is a strong link between stress and poor health.
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