Americans Are More Stressed About Money Than Anything Else -- And It's Taking A Toll On Their Health

02/04/2015 01:09 pm ET | Updated Feb 04, 2015
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The economy may be improving, but finances are still a stressful burden on Americans -- especially among young adults and parents, according to the American Psychological Association's new Stress in America survey.

The report highlights a growing health problem when it comes to well-being and financial security. Nearly three-quarters of participants reported feeling stressed about money at some point, with some respondents saying they went as far as sacrificing health care because of finances.

"When people are financially challenged, it makes sense their stress level could go up," Norman Anderson, Ph.D., the chief executive officer and executive vice president of the American Psychological Association said in a press conference Wednesday. "Many industries in the economy have shown improvement, but we still know many people aren't benefiting and are still concerned about economic well-being."

The 2015 report, which was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the APA, surveyed more than 3,000 American adults in August 2014. While the APA reports that stress is down overall, there are still some major health concerns. Below are some of the survey's biggest findings about financial anxiety, general stress and well-being:

  • Money is the No. 1 stressor overall, but particularly for millennials, those in Generation X and for parents.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 Americans say they have skipped or considered skipping going to the doctor in the last year when they needed heath care due to financial problems.
  • Those who reported experiencing extreme money concerns were also more likely to resort to unhealthy behaviors to manage their stress.
  • A third of Americans said a lack of money prevents them from living a healthier lifestyle.
  • Women are more stressed than men overall, with 51 percent reporting that stress has kept them awake at night, compared to only 32 percent of men.

When financial worries become too much of a barrier to a healthy lifestyle, experts recommend seeking social support to mitigate stress.

"You may not be able to change your financial situation but you may be able to better manage it," said Katherine Nordal, Ph.D., executive director for professional practice at the APA. "I think having a support system -- some people who believe in you -- gives you that extra emotional strength to be able to get through the day and do the things you need to do to try to improve your situation."

There's ample research to support her claim, not to mention that emotional support is beneficial for issues beyond financial concerns. Studies show a close-knit support system can improve your longevity, encourage you to be active and even lower your risk for heart disease.

"Emotional support helps with managing stress from a variety of sources," Anderson said. "It's one of the most generally positive things one can do for their health and emotional well-being."

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