Los Angeles: Stressed the Eff Out

Thank you to the LAist for interpreting the APA study of stress affecting Angelenos.

The text of the article follows below, and I took some excerpts from the ADA report under the story.

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Feeling Stressed, LA? Study Shows LA is Most Stressed in US

Photo by Plankton 4:20 via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr

The American Psychological Association’s just-completed “Stress in America” study finds that Los Angeles residents are the most stressed residents in the entire country. Not New Yorkers. Not Chicagoans. Not Bostonians. Despite our temperate climate (no long dark winters here), Angelenos report that our stress about money and the economy is higher than the national average at a time when our job satisfaction and physical health is lower than the national average. These jumps and dips along the “national average” curve equal one big pot of unhappiness.

How stressed are we?

-29% of LA residents report having a great deal of stress, national average is 24%
-76% of LA residents attribute their stress to money, compared to 67% last year
-39% of LA residents are stressed out at work, compared to 29% last year
-75% of LA residents cite the economy as a source of stress, national average is 65%
-31% of LA residents say they are in good health, national average is 40%
-45% of LA residents admit to being irritable in the past month
-38% of LA residents admit to being anxious or nervous in the past month
-36% of LA residents admit to being fatigued due to stress in the past month
-No official stats on traffic stress were included, but…come on

So what’s a stressed out city to do? The APA report finds that our biggest challenges in Los Angeles are getting enough sleep and finding ways to manage stress so that we don’t slide further into stressful habits that make us prone to becoming overweight or obese. Maybe the plethora of yoga studios, gyms, Runyon Canyon runners and midnight riding riders have a point.

The most alarming/not-surprising-at-all finding of a stress study on Angelenos: “When asked to what degree pressure to look good impacts their stress level, nearly one-third (30 percent) of LA residents said that the pressure to look good impacts their stress levels moderately or ‘a lot.'” Well, when you consider we’re not so smart and rather mean, it makes sense we’d place such importance on how we look.

Oh, LA. Sounds like it’s time for a great big mellowing out. Get thee to a yoga mat, get thee on your bicycle, get thee outdoors and among nature and get thee away from mirrors and judge-y friends. The economy is going to do what the economy is going to do. We’ve got to take care of our own and get those numbers shipshape for the 2011 survey.

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Stress in Los Angeles

Los Angeles residents* report that stress levels are going up and are higher than the national average, while job satisfaction is lower. The number of LA residents who describe their health as excellent or very good is lower than the national average, and since 2009, there has been an increase in the percentage of adults who say they have been diagnosed with arthritis, asthma/respiratory disease or chronic pain.

How Stressed is Los Angeles?

LA residents report more stress than Americans overall, and they cite the most common sources of stress — money and the economy — even more so than the rest of the nation.

  • Almost three in 10 (29 percent) residents report having a great deal of stress (defined as an 8, 9 or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10), compared to 24 percent of Americans overall.
  • A significantly higher number of residents attribute their stress to money (76 percent vs. 67 percent) and the economy (75 percent vs. 57 percent) this year than last.
  • LA residents are more likely than Americans overall to point to the economy as a source of stress (75 percent vs. 65 percent) and less likely to cite family responsibilities (47 percent vs. 58 percent).
  • Though there has been a significant decline in those reporting physical symptoms of stress, many admit to being irritable (45 percent), anxious or nervous (38 percent) or fatigued (36 percent) due to stress in the past month.

For many people in Los Angeles, work is also a source of stress (69 percent). The number of people reporting being satisfied with their jobs has been steadily dropping over the past three years.

  • The percentage of individuals who report feeling stressed out at work jumped significantly, from 29 percent in 2009 to 39 percent in 2010.
  • LA residents also report feeling less satisfied with their jobs than in previous years (58 percent in 2010, compared with 64 percent in 2009 and 67 percent in 2008), and they are less likely than Americans overall to recommend their place of work to others (44 percent vs. 53 percent).

How Stress is Affecting Them

  • Fewer LA residents than Americans overall say they are in excellent or very good health (just three in 10, nine points below the national average of 40 percent).
  • Those who said they had been told by a health care provider that they were overweight or obese also rose, from 25 percent to 29 percent.

Barriers to Change

  • On every item evaluated, adults rated the importance of the item considerably higher than their personal achievement on that item. The biggest gaps between importance and achievement are for getting enough sleep and managing stress. Two-thirds of adults (66 percent) say that getting enough sleep is extremely/very important but only one-third (35 percent) say they are doing an excellent/very good job of achieving it. Likewise, 62 percent feel managing stress is important, but only about half as many (34 percent) admit they do an excellent/very good job here.
  • Fewer LA residents cite a lack of willpower for failing to make recommended lifestyle changes (32 percent vs. 41 percent in 2009), though it remains the most common obstacle, and fewer also say they don’t have enough time (14 percent vs. 20 percent).
  • However, twice as many cite a disability or health condition as a barrier to a healthy lifestyle (14 percent, up from 7 percent in 2009).
  • LA residents are far less likely than Americans overall to manage their stress by praying (21 percent vs. 37 percent), going to religious services (11 percent vs. 22 percent) or shopping (7 percent vs. 15 percent).

Do Looks Count When It Comes to Stress?

When asked to what degree pressure to look good impacts their stress level, nearly one-third (30 percent) of LA residents said that the pressure to look good impacts their stress levels moderately or “a lot.”

*This section of the report focuses only on the views of residents within the Los Angeles MSA (2008 n=256; 2009 n=205; 2010 n=211) and the general population (2008 n=1,791; 2009 n=1,568; 2010 n=1,134).

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