Insights from APA’s Latest Stress Survey
American women are experiencing heightened stress, a trend that has been consistent over time, according to seasoned clinical psychologist Rosalind S. Dorlen. The recent APA Stress in America survey, with over 3,000 adult participants, revealed that women report higher stress on average compared to men (5.3 vs. 4.8 on a 10-point scale). Additionally, a larger proportion of women indicate their stress levels as severe (27% vs. 21% for men). Women also express a stronger feeling of being misunderstood in their stress and find it harder to recover from stressful events. Dorlen notes that men seem to process stress differently, often distancing themselves from the experience.
Research indicates that women tend to internalize stress, which can lead to both physical and mental health issues, whereas men may express stress through aggression or impulsive behaviors. Psychologists are calling for action in response to these findings, emphasizing the necessity for wellness programs that cater to specific groups. Taisha Caldwell-Harvey, a licensed psychologist, advocates for mental health care that recognizes the diverse experiences and triggers of stress.
The primary stressors for women this year include health concerns and financial difficulties, with a significant number feeling overwhelmed by financial strain (50% of women vs. 44% of men). Family responsibilities and relationship issues are also more pressing for women. Caldwell-Harvey’s experience with her clients, particularly professional Black women, echoes these findings. Many feel overburdened by domestic duties and perceive an imbalance in the distribution of these responsibilities with their male partners, impacting their mental health.
The APA survey also highlights a general pessimism about the progress of women’s rights and societal advancements for marginalized groups. Caldwell-Harvey points out that the issues of discrimination and racial trauma remain unchanged for Black women.
In terms of coping, social connections are vital. Despite a higher acknowledgment among women of needing more support, they are also more likely to withdraw from social engagements. Dorlen stresses the importance of community for women’s well-being. On a positive note, the stigma around seeking mental health support is diminishing, with Dorlen’s practice observing a more balanced gender ratio among clients. Caldwell-Harvey encourages Black women and all women to value rest and to recognize the legitimacy of their stress and the pressures they face.