The New Age of Stress

Our modern World is a lot more stressful place today, than it ever was in even the most-recent past. Psychological researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University have analyzed it and measured it, and this is their conclusion.

In fact, stress on males is 24 percent greater now than it was in 1983, and it is 18 percent greater for females. So now you can worry about your stress levels to add to them with the not-so-surprising results of this original historical comparison study of modern American life.

The director of CM’s ‘laboratory for the study of stress, immunity and disease’ and lead author of this new report says, “…the data suggest there’s been an increase in stress over that time.

Thirty-year-olds have less stress than 20-year-olds, and 40-year-olds have less stress than 30-year-olds.” The conclusions are published online in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. The comparisons were made between calibrations taken in 1983, 2006 and 2009. The most stressed groups throughout are women, poorer people and those with lower educational attainments. Another intuitive finding was that stress decreases with age.

Each of the 3 studies used the ‘Perceived Stress Scale’ or PSS.

This is a psychological quasi-experimental measure created by the team at Carnegie Mellon, way back when, to assess stress levels of people in defined situations.

It is a personal reported measure of stress by each survey respondent to a series of questions, specifically designed to elicit perceived levels of stress. A scale is stress is used to evaluate people’s answers, and an overall score is recorded.

The greater the score the greater the perceived stress. These scores are significantly higher, by between 10 and 30 percent, in all demographic categories in each successive survey since the first in 1983.

Stress is the body’s reaction to threats or uncertainty. Our adrenal glands pump adrenaline into the bloodstream to prepare us for either fight or flight. When neither action is possible, the adrenaline slows drains away but not completely, and it accumulates over time with adverse effects on our physical health and mental well-being.

[box type=”note”]College educated white males between 40 and 60 years old, with full-time occupations have been most adversely stressed by the latest economic crisis. Their reported stress levels were almost twice that of any other group in the survey.[/box]

The experts are telling us “…economic pressures are greater, and it’s harder to turn off information, and it’s harder to buffer ourselves from the world.” It would seem that the new age of information, far from enlightening us and making things better is actually leading to ‘role stress.’  This is where uncertainty about a person place in the world of work is gradually undermined by constantly changing parameters.

Computers do eventually simply things but only after a prolonged period of information overload and challenging learning situations. For those brought up in the world of the Internet and mobile technology this is easier to assimilate than those people in the survey who are middle-aged now.

Claire Al-Aufi

Claire Al-Aufi is a contributing author for Hive Health Media who provides updates on health and fitness news.

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