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High Anxiety: Poll Finds Americans Stressed by Inflation, War

FRIDAY, March 11, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Inflation, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and continuing concerns about money and COVID-19 have Americans more stressed than ever, a new poll conducted last week reveals.

The biggest concerns: rising costs of food, energy and other everyday items due to inflation (87%); supply chain issues (81%); global uncertainty (81%); Russia's invasion of Ukraine (80%), and potential Russian cyberattacks or nuclear threats (80%).

In addition to those worries cited by the thousands of adults who participated in the American Psychological Association's Stress in America Poll, 63% said their lives had been forever changed by COVID-19.

"Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope," said Arthur Evans Jr., chief executive officer of the association.

"The number of people who say they're significantly stressed about these most recent events is stunning relative to what we've seen since we began the survey in 2007," he said in an association news release.

Pollsters also found continued hardship for vulnerable groups of people, concerns about children's development among parents, and unhealthy coping habits.

Almost half of respondents (47%) said they have been less active since the pandemic's start. Fifty-eight percent said they've had unwanted weight changes and 23% said they have been drinking more.

Among respondents who gained more weight than they wanted, the average was 26 pounds. Among those who lost more weight than they wanted, the average amount was 27 pounds. (The median change in either group was 15 pounds, meaning half of respondents gained or lost more.)

The new findings add to a broader Stress in America poll conducted in February that pegged financial stress at its highest level since 2015.

A large number of adults in the new poll said separation from others and conflicts over COVID had put strains on relationships or ended them.

Half of respondents and 61% of essential workers said they have loved ones they have not been able to see in person in the past two years due to the pandemic.

In all, 58% of respondents said relationships were strained or ended because of pandemic-related conflicts. Among those were conflicts over canceling events or gatherings due to COVID concerns (29%); differences of opinion over vaccines and the pandemic overall (25%), and differences about mask-wearing (24%).

APA noted that relationship struggles and reduced social support make it more difficult to cope with stress, and 56% of respondents said they could have used more emotional support during the pandemic.

"Living through historic threats like these often has a lasting, traumatic impact on generations," Evans said.

As a society, he said, it's important to ensure access to evidence-based treatments and provide help to all who needs it.

"This means not only connecting those in distress with effective and efficient clinical care, but also mitigating risk for those more likely to experience challenges and engaging in prevention for those who are relatively healthy," Evans said.

The online poll was conducted in two parts -- with 3,012 respondents in February, and with 2,051 adults March 1-3.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic has a list of 10 ways to reduce stress.

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, March 10, 2022

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