More adults in the US expect to be more stressed in 2023 than at this time last year, but they also say they’re more willing to take steps to address that stress, according to a survey released Wednesday.
The American Psychiatric Association healthy minds survey surveyed more than 2,200 US adults on December 7 and 8. The results were compared to those of a similar survey of the group that was conducted in December 2021.
Approximately 26% of those surveyed reported that they expected to experience more stress in the New Year, up from 20% the year before.
And about 37% of adults (nearly 2 in 5) rated their mental health as “fair or poor” this month, up from 31% a year ago. Young adults, low-income adults, and parents were more likely to rate their mental health as fair or poor.
At the same time, more adults say they plan to take steps to improve their mental health in the coming year, such as journaling or going to therapy, the survey found.
“The bottom line is actually very positive, which is that more Americans are willing to talk about their mental health,” said APA President Dr. Rebecca Brendel.
What is it that stresses people out?
Personal finances ranked highest among sources of anxiety, according to the APA survey, followed by:
- Physical Health
- Mental health
- Relationships with family and friends
- job security
Lindsey McKernan, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said people seem to be experiencing “collective fatigue” more than two years into the covid pandemic.
The coronavirus, geopolitical uncertainty and lingering fears about a recession they have made people more stressed, he said.
“We’re a little bit more worn out,” he said, “and sometimes when you’re a little bit more worn down, you become more susceptible to the effects of stress.”
Common signs of stress include trouble sleeping, changes in appetite, mood swings and difficulty concentrating, according to to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In the long term, stress can worsen mental disorders, including depression.
How to deal with stress in 2023
About 29% of adults surveyed indicated they would make New Year’s resolutions related to improving their mental health in 2023, up from 26% last year, according to the survey.
Resolutions included exercising more, meditating, practicing spirituality, taking breaks from social media, and journaling.
Seeking therapy ranked third on the list of resolutions, a pleasant surprise for licensed psychologist Julie Cerel, director of the Suicide Exposure and Prevention Laboratory at the University of Kentucky.
She attributed the increase to increased awareness of the therapy in the media.
“Get the word out that there is treatment, that there is help, like the new number 988and that people really don’t have to suffer alone,” she said.
In addition to therapy, people can take small steps to take care of their mental health, such as exercising, limiting social media and rekindling old friendships, Brendel said. He advised against “radical changes” which he said could become “burdensome.”
“Every little step we take can add up over time,” he added.
McKernan said other ways people can take care of their mental health include paying attention to signs of stress. It is also important to connect with close family members or other loved ones.
“Some people have been limiting travel or isolating themselves, and you want to work to stay connected,” he said.