Monitor on Psychology - March 2012 - (Page 18)

‘Our health at risk By S ara Marti n • Monitor staff ’ APA’s latest survey finds that many Americans don’t understand how stress can undermine their health. F irst the good news: The percentage of Americans who report feeling extreme stress dropped 10 percentage points since 2007 when APA conducted its first Stress in America survey, from 32 percent to 22 percent. On a scale of 1 to 10, the mean rating for stress in 2011 fell to 5.2, the lowest level in five years (it was 5.4 in 2009 and 2010; 5.9 in 2008; and 6.2 in 2007). Extreme stress was likely highest in 2007 because that was the start of the economic downturn, the researchers suggest. But the bad news from APA’s latest data is noteworthy: A significant number of respondents reported that stress has only a slight or no impact on their physical health (31 percent) or on their mental health (36 percent). That’s true even though stress is a proven precursor of many chronic conditions, such as depression and cardiovascular disease, and often makes existing illnesses worse, said APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD, during a Jan. 11 panel discussion on the survey, “Stress in America: Our Health at Risk.” “Seventy-five percent of health-care costs are associated with chronic illnesses,” said Anderson. “What’s a key driver of chronic illnesses? Stress.” It’s a vicious cycle since those with the highest stress are often those with chronic conditions, said APA President Suzanne Bennett Johnson, PhD, who also served on the panel, broadcast live on the Web from the Newseum in Washington, D.C. According to the survey results, while Americans without a chronic health problem had a 5.2 stress rating, people who were depressed had an average stress rating of 6.3 and people who were obese had a 6.0 rating. “Somehow our health-care system is not focusing on [stress],” Johnson said. “It’s waiting until everybody is sick and then handing out biomedical interventions to help you with your disease, so we’re left with more people getting chronic illnesses unnecessarily and increasing health-care costs.” What’s the solution? Ensuring Americans have access to psychologists through a team-based, patient-care approach that can help people make lifestyle changes before chronic diseases set in, the panelists said. Psychologists have a wealth of evidence-based ways to help people reduce their stress, such as helping them think in new ways and teaching them relaxation techniques and time-management skills. M o n i to r o n p s yc h o l o g y • M a rc h 2 0 1 2 18

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Monitor on Psychology - March 2012

Monitor on Psychology - March 2012
President’s column
From the CEO
Supreme Court rejects eyewitness protections
New member benefit: prevention screenings
A psychodynamic treatment for PTSD shows promise for soldiers
Was ‘Little Albert’ ill during the famed conditioning study?
New research identifies ways to improve eyewitness identifications
In Brief
‘Our health at risk’
Perspective on Practice
APA endorses higher education guidelines
Random Sample
Judicial Notebook
Help for struggling veterans
Driving out cancer disparities
In the Public Interest
Practice, virtually
The legal and ethical issues of virtual therapy
Psychologist PROFILE
Bringing life into focus
Pay attention to me
Division Spotlight

Monitor on Psychology - March 2012