A new survey conducted by the American Psychological Association suggests that people are more politically stressed in 2017 than they were in August. Before this, overall stress levels had been declining.
The APA, which has been polling people about stress for 10 years, surveys about 3,000 people meant to accurately represent the U.S. In August, pollsters included questions about politics and the election.
That survey found that, between August and January, average stress levels rose in a statistically significant way.
“Because the results were so striking, related to stress and the election, we actually went out again and polled in January,” said psychologist Lynn Bufka of the APA. In January, the APA surveyed closer to 1,000 people.
More than half of participants said the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans said the future of the nation was a significant source of stress for them. Seventy-two percent of Democrats said the outcome of the election was stressful.
Bufka said it’s possible that people tend to be less stressed in August than in January. But some area therapists confirmed that they are seeing a trend.
“I would say, at least half of my sessions each week, there are concerns that patients are bringing each week about the political situation, or fears that they have about themselves, or friends or loved ones, and how things that are going on are going to impact them,” said Tamar Chansky who practices in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.
Chansky, a psychologist and author of “Freeing Yourself from Anxiety,” said she’s never experienced this level of political worry before in patients in “a couple decades of practicing.”
Thea Gallagher, a psychologist and the clinic coordinator at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at Penn, said her patients cite looming uncertainty around the future.
“I think, for a lot of people, it’s about how to manage that stress with tolerating the unknown,” she said. “Still, they have to live their lives and be productive in their day-to-day lives in the present.”
Her job, she said, is to help people stay in the moment and not get too caught up in anxiety. Chansky agreed, saying connection with others is key.
For those who don’t feel any political anxiety, Gallagher said, now is an opportunity to have deeper conversations with others. More meaningful dialogue across the political aisle, couldn’t hurt either, she said.