11/21/2012 02:46 pm ET

Reduce Stress: Discussions On Stress Management Not Likely During Doctors' Visits

We're talking to our doctors about our aches and pains, weight loss concerns and how to get back to the gym. But when it comes to reducing stress and managing anxiety, people are keeping quiet, according to a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Only 3 percent of doctors' visits involve discussions on how to reduce stress. For some comparison, nutrition counseling happened in 17 percent of visits, "physical activity counseling" happened in 12 percent of visits, and weight counseling occurred in 6 percent of visits, the study found.

It's a shockingly small percentage when one considers that nearly a quarter of Americans have reported feeling "extreme stress," according to a recent American Psychological Association poll. Stress has been linked to any number of chronic health issues, including diabetes, cancer, asthma and heart disease, and researchers said that an estimated 60 to 80 percent of doctors' visits involved some stress-related health issue.

The study examined 34,000 visits to 1,263 physicians between 2006 and 2009. Researchers looked to see if physicians shared information on stress reduction tools like meditation, exercise and yoga. Out of the 34,000 visits, a little more than 1,000 visits involved stress-management advice, the study found.

"The low rate of [stress] counseling points to potential missed opportunities, suggesting that physician counseling about stress has not been incorporated into primary care to the extent of other types of counseling," according to the researchers.

Why aren't more doctors and patients discussing how to manage and reduce stress? According to researchers, it's an issue of time. Doctors may feel like they don't have time to talk about stress management; in fact, those office visits that did include stress management counseling ran longer.



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