A new poll found that 84% of US adults say the country has serious societal issues that need to be addressed, including elections, the state of the economy, and the effects of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Moreover, 9 in 10 adults say that they hope the country moves toward unity, according to Stress in America: January 2021 Stress Snapshot, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA).

The survey found that the average reported stress level during the prior month was 5.6 on a scale of 10, with 1 meaning “little to no stress” and 10 meaning “a great deal of stress.” This was reported higher than the stress levels reported in 2020 Stress in America surveys since April. The most common feelings expressed were anxiety (47%), sadness (44%), and anger (39%). Additionally, 2 in 3 adults said the number of issues America is facing is overwhelming to them.

"Nearly a year into the pandemic, prolonged stress persists at elevated levels for many Americans. As we work to address stressors as a nation, from unemployment to education, we can't ignore the mental health consequences of this global shared experience," said APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, in a press release. "Without addressing stress as part of a national recovery plan, we will be dealing with the mental health fallout from this pandemic for years to come."

The survey also found that the majority of adults reported the future of our nation (81%), the COVID-19 pandemic (80%), and political unrest around the country (74%) as significant sources of stress in their lives.

The APA offered the following evidence-based advice to help people manage their stress:
  • Give yourself permission to take a break from the news, social media, or friends.
  • Practice the rule of “3 good things” and ask friends and family to do the same. At the end of the day, reflect on 3 good things that happened to help decrease anxiety, counter depression, and build emotional resiliency.
  • Practice self-care in 15- or 30-minute increments throughout the day. This can include taking a short walk, calling a friend, or watching a show you like.
  • Stay connected with friends and family to help build emotional resiliency so you can support one another.
  • Keep things in perspectives and try to reframe your thinking to reduce negative interpretations of day-to-day experiences and events.

US adults report highest stress level since early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. EurekAlert! https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-02/apa-uar020121.php. Published February 2, 2021. Accessed February 2, 2021.