Sometimes, it’s the little things that get you. A recent survey from NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health finds that while health problems and work upheaval are the biggest causes of stress for most people on a long-term basis, daily stressors like juggling family schedules and commuting to work also have an effect on our perception of stress and its impact on our lives.
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Forty-nine percent of the 2,505 respondents said that they’d experienced a stressful event in the past year; 43 percent said that this event was related to health, either illness and disease or the death of a loved one. Problems with work came second, with 13 percent of respondents.
A quarter of those surveyed said they’d experienced “a great deal of stress” in the past month. Again, health was the top concern, with 60 percent saying their stress was caused by a health condition, followed by disability at 45 percent, and illness at 36 percent. The next most stressful conditions were income of less than $20,000 annually (36 percent) and experiencing dangerous situations at work (36 percent).
Looking at those numbers, it’s obvious that many respondents were dealing with more than one stressor at a time, which brings us to the next segment: daily stressors.
These daily events contributed to stress among respondents who reported experiencing “a great deal of stress” in the past month:
1. Juggling the schedules of family members: 48 percent
2. Hearing about what the government or politicians are doing: 44 percent
3. Watching, reading, or listening to the news: 40 percent
4. Household tasks, such as cooking and cleaning: 39 percent
5. Running errands: 38 percent
6. Handling car problems: 36 percent
7. Commuting to work: 35 percent
8. Handling household repairs: 32 percent
9. Losing something important like your keys or your phone: 30 percent
10. Using social media: 14 percent
In other words, even in the absence of major upheaval at home or at work, just trying to organize all the moving parts of a successful life can be a cause of stress.
Furthermore, our memories appear to be fairly short once we’re out of a stressful period: 74 percent of those who did not experience stress in the past month view themselves as having control over the stress in their lives, while only 34 percent of those who did experience stress in the past month say that they have “a great deal of control” over their stress.
It’s not all bad news, though: 67 percent of those who experienced a lot of stress in the past month say that stress has had a positive effect on their lives at some point, and 41 percent say that it has specifically benefitted their work life.
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