: Americans experience ‘unprecedented levels of stress,’ fueled by inflation, money worries, COVID-19 and Russia-Ukraine war

The state of stress in the U.S. two years into the pandemic is “alarming,” according to the American Psychological Association’s latest Stress in America study, with issues stemming from inflation and the Russia-Ukraine crisis topping the list of concerns.

In fact, as war in Ukraine takes a growing human toll and exacerbates the highest inflation the U.S. has seen in four decades, more people cited price increases and Ukraine-related issues as stressors than any other topic in the survey’s 15-year history, according to the surveys of thousands of U.S. adults conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the APA. 

Major issues weighing on Americans’ minds are inflation-fueled price hikes for everyday items like gas, energy bills and groceries (87%), supply-chain issues (81%), global uncertainty (81%), possible retaliation from Russia such as nuclear threats or cyberattacks (80%) and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (80%), the study found.

Some 87% of respondents said it felt like there had been a nonstop stream of crises over the past two years, while nearly three in four people said they were overwhelmed by the current number of global crises.

“The pandemic has taken a disproportionate health and financial toll on people of color, and economic recovery has been uneven so far. ”

Meanwhile, stress related to money hit its highest level since 2015, with 65% of respondents citing money as a stressor last month, and an equal share citing the economy. Reflecting the fact that skyrocketing rents have pushed homeownership prospects even further out of reach for many Americans, half of respondents called housing costs a significant source of stress. 

“Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope,” APA chief executive Arthur C. Evans Jr. said in a statement.

The report included results from two surveys: a broader “pandemic anniversary” survey of more than 3,000 adults conducted Feb. 7 to Feb. 14, as well as a “late-breaking” survey of more than 2,000 adults conducted in early March to gauge views on recent events.

Adults aged 18 to 43 were more likely than their older counterparts to say money was a significant stressor, and Latino (75%) and Black (67%) adults were more likely than their white (63%) and Asian (57%) counterparts to report the same. The pandemic has taken a disproportionate health and financial toll on people of color, and despite strong overall job growth, the economic recovery has been uneven so far. 

While seven in 10 respondents say they aren’t as afraid of contracting COVID-19 as they were at the pandemic’s start, the pandemic itself remains a source of stress for a majority of people. 

Barriers to access mental-health services

Half of respondents, and six in 10 essential workers, reported not being able to see loved ones because of the pandemic. And 58% of respondents said they experienced relationship strain or ended a relationship because of COVID-related conflicts like event cancellations or differences of opinion on matters like vaccines, mask-wearing or health risks.

Sixty-six percent say they lose hope with each new coronavirus variant that the pandemic will ever end, but 71% also say the pandemic has made them better at prioritizing what’s most important to them. 

Meanwhile, in the midst of an ongoing child-care crisis, majorities of parents said they struggle with stress from COVID-related disruptions to their child’s schedule and schools’ constantly shifting COVID-19 rules, and expressed concern for their kids’ social, academic, emotional, cognitive and physical development. Many thousands of children have also lost a parent or caregiver to the coronavirus, the report points out.

The survey also showed that while many people are starting to recognize the benefits of getting mental-health support, “many struggle to break through barriers to access.”

“As a society, it’s important that we ensure access to evidence-based treatments and that we provide help to everyone who needs it,” Evans said. “This means not only connecting those in distress with effective and efficient clinical care, but also mitigating risk for those more likely to experience challenges and engaging in prevention for those who are relatively healthy.”

Struggling with your mental health? Check out these tips and resources recommended by experts who spoke with MarketWatch earlier in the pandemic. And here’s even more advice on how to get help for mental-health concerns, including thoughts of suicide.

Related: How parents can keep tabs on children’s mental health during COVID-19 — and get help if necessary

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