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People in Industrialized World Feel More
Stressed than Those in Developing Countries

Washington, D.C.
VOA News

Stress -- a feeling of anxiety caused by such things as having too many demands, not enough time, too little money, and too many creditors is all too common in industrialized countries.

A new poll shows that about three-fourths of people in the United States and Canada, some countries of Western Europe, South Korea and Australia say they feel stress on a daily basis.

Many of those surveyed say they feel their lives are beyond their control. The wealthiest people often cite their jobs as the leading source of their stress. Those with the lowest incomes say it is lack of money.Finances are a major cause of stress.

Psychologist David Shern describes the U.S. as a nation under stress. "The majority of Americans are struggling to find a balance among the multitude of challenges that they have in their busy lives."

The number one stressor for Americans? Finances, jobs and health. But long commutes, heavy traffic and long working hours are also factors.

A survey by Mental Health America identifies those Americans with the highest amount of stress. David Shern heads the advocacy group. "People who have parenting responsibilities report the greatest level of stress,” he says. “About 40 percent of them (parents) report three or more significant stressors in their lives."

Working parents feel the most stress when they are at work and their children are home from school without adult supervision. This is the finding of another survey, one by the University of Florida. "People are very much stressed out. Some people to the max [maximum]. And that very much affects the body," says Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola who is on the board of directors of Mental Health America.

At an event commemorating the nonprofit organization, Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola and Dr. Shern rang a bell that was created from the iron chains and shackles used to bind Americans with mental illnesses more than half a century ago.

Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola says research shows stress makes people more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other physical and mental illnesses. And that, he says, often leads to drug and alcohol abuse.

One poll shows Mexicans are less stressed than people in other countries. Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola's studies show Mexican immigrants to the United States are far less stressed than their American-born children and grandchildren.
"What we found, for example, is that people who were the second and third generation of Mexican origin, have two to three times higher rates of major depression, anxiety disorders, certainly of drug and alcohol abuse and dependence than the first generation."

Immigrants from other developing countries who settle in the U.S. or another industrialized nation have similar experiences. Of all the people in industrialized nations, Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola says Americans have the highest amount of stress.

A number of studies show stress is increasing around the world as other countries adopt Western lifestyles and work habits. Mental health advocates are calling for better mental health care, but they are also advising people to evaluate the causes of their stress and to reduce it by changes in lifestyle and increasing exercise.

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