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Are We More Stressed Than the Rest of the World
Ask the average person how often they feel stressed out during the week and odds are they’ll tell you at least once. Many will likely answer it’s more than once. Despite recent surveys showing a decline in stress, many Americans still exhibit higher levels of stress that are not considered healthy levels. But just how do stress levels in America compare to the rest of the world?
Research has shown that the sources of stress vary from person to person. In fact, some personality types are more prone to feeling stressed than others. Still, some of the most common stressors include loss of a loved one, divorce, childhood trauma, health of children, money, job, personal health, relationships with others and physical danger.
Although some things are beyond someone’s control, there are things people can have more control over. As mentioned above, some people seem to be programed to be more stressed out than others, while those with more laid-back attitudes handle stress better. Society can also determine how often you feel stressed out. The question is, how does Americans compare to those living in other countries?
Studies suggest that between forty and fifty percent of first marriages in America end in divorce. The rate is higher for second and third marriages. Divorce and finances often play an integral role.
Different spending habits and arguments over money are a leading cause of divorce in the United States.
According to a recent study, twenty-two percent of couples who divorce do so due to arguments about money. France, Spain and Belgium all have higher divorce rates than the United States. While money matters did make the list, the most commonly named reasons for divorce in these countries included infidelity, irreconcilable differences and falling out of love.
The American Psychological Association recently conducted a survey asking participants what most stresses them out. Seventy-six percent of respondents cited money. Even with a healthier economy, Americans are still worried about their finances. With the housing market still in recovery mode and the unemployment rate still above what it was before the last big recession, Americans have learned to be more wary.
In fact, an international poll conducted by Reader’s Digest and shared by CNN cited money as the leading cause of stress worldwide. Participants were asked to choose between family, health, state of the world and money. Most people picked money. The United States ranked as the fourth most money-stressed country with Malaysia, China and Singapore taking first through third place. On the other hand, a study conducted in the UK found work to be the biggest stressor with money problems only being cited as the major cause of stress for thirty percent of those surveyed.
According to a Gallop poll, the average American work week is forty-seven hours. Eighteen percent of workers said they work sixty hours or more per week. Compare this to the 42.2 hour average put in by Greek workers who ranked the highest in Europe, and it’s easy to see why work issues are a top stressor for many Americans. Americans spend more hours at work annually than French, British and Japanese workers.
The balance between work and family can lead to major stress for many families. In the U.S., seventy percent of children have both parents at work. The U.S. is the only country that does not offer nationally paid parental leave benefits. With record numbers of mothers working in the U.S., Americans also among the most stressed out in terms of work/family balance. A 2014 Monster Worldwide Incorporated poll found that forty-two percent of Americans said stress had caused them to leave their jobs.
Vacations offer time to relax, unwind and de-stress. Without proper time to unwind, stress, anxiety and depression can quickly take over. But do Americans have the time to unwind that workers in other industrialized nations do? While time off varies among people within a country, once again Americans on average are getting less than their European counterparts. Every European Union country has four weeks of paid vacation or more for their employees required by law.
In addition, the U.S. is the only industrialized country with no legally mandated annual leave. France, on the other hand, grants workers an entire month of paid leave every year. Workers in Sweden, Denmark and Norway get a government mandated twenty-five hours per week off. So, where do American workers rank in terms of total paid days off? The answer is a mere thirteen days of paid time off. Numerous industrialized nations including Canada, Japan, Austria, Australia, Germany, France and Italy give their workers more paid days off.
Fearing for the physical safety of self and loved ones can cause high levels of stress, even chronic stress. Are Americans feeling more stressed out due to fear of physical violence than people in other countries? Countries in the middle of war and other political turmoil can’t be compared to nations not at war. So in terms of industrialized nations not directly experiencing war how does America rank?
According to a CIVITAS report the United States has the highest homicide rate of any advanced industrialized nation. In a recent Time magazine article, crime was one of the top factors determining how stressed out a city’s inhabitants were. New York, Los Angeles and Detroit, three cities with notoriously high crime rates, all made the top of the list. In general, Americans have a higher risk of becoming victims of crime than do those living in countries with lower crime indexes, such as the UK and Germany.
A Bloomburg survey done in 2013 compared the stress levels of seventy-four countries using seven different variables. With its high population, high poverty rate, and issues with government corruption, Nigeria made the top of the list with North America coming in at 54.
North American culture is very fast-paced with a lot of emphasis placed on competition and winning. While many American employees would like more paid time off and most would admit to feeling high levels of work-related stress at least once in a year, employee benefits and pay still compare well to other countries. In the end, it’s a toss-up. The level of stress one feels depends on a variety of factors, with the country you live in just being one.
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