November 24, 2009

Financial Concerns Remain Top Stressors for Americans Heading Into Holiday Season

American Psychological Association offers strategies to manage stress and promote health during holidays.

WASHINGTON, DC—As Black Friday nears and national unemployment levels push into double digits for the first time in decades, the American Psychological Association’s (APA) newest Stress in America survey finds that Americans continue to cite financial concerns as leading sources of stress.

Approximately seven in ten Americans report that money is a significant source of stress (71 percent), according to APA’s 2009 Stress in America survey, with similarly high percentages reporting stress resulting from work (69 percent) and the economy (63 percent). More than half of adults (55 percent) also cited family responsibilities as a significant source of stress in their lives.

“According to our survey three quarters of adults in this country already report moderate to high levels of stress,” says psychologist Katherine Nordal, PhD, APA’s executive director for professional practice. “The holiday season can bring with it additional emotional and financial stressors that can negatively impact both physical and mental health.”

Psychologists urge parents to pay particular attention to the stress their children may experience during the holidays. APA’s Stress in America survey found that children are nearly two times more likely to worry about financial concerns than their parents realize. Specifically, 30 percent of youth say they worry about their family having enough money, while only 18 percent of parents report that this is a source of stress for their child.

“While the holidays are stressful for many people, there are some things we can all do to manage that stress and enjoy the season,” says Dr. Nordal. “Given the concerns our young people are reporting about stress and money, parents need to be good models for managing stress in healthy ways.”

APA suggests the following strategies to manage holiday stress and enjoy the season:

  1. Take time for yourself. Taking care of yourself helps you to take better care of others in your life. Go for a long walk or take time out to read or listen to your favorite music. By slowing down you will actually have more energy to accomplish your goals.

  2. Volunteer. Many charitable organizations face new challenges as a result of the ongoing economic downturn. Find a local charity, such as a soup kitchen or a shelter, where you and your family can volunteer together. Helping others who are less fortunate can put hardships in perspective and can build stronger family relationships.

  3. Set realistic expectations. No holiday celebration is perfect; view inevitable missteps as opportunities to demonstrate flexibility and resilience. Create a realistic budget and remind your children that the holidays aren’t about expensive gifts.

  4. Remember what’s important. Commercialism can overshadow the true sentiment of the holiday season. When your holiday expense list is running longer than your monthly budget, scale back. Remind yourself that family, friends and the relationships in our lives are what matter most.

  5. Seek support. Talk about stress related to the holidays with your friends and family. Getting things out in the open can help you navigate your feelings and work toward a solution. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consider talking with a professional such as a psychologist to help you develop coping strategies and better manage your stress. A psychologist has the skills and professional training to help people learn to manage stress and cope more effectively with life problems, using techniques based on best available research and their clinical skills and experience, and taking into account an individual’s unique values, goals and circumstances. Psychologists have doctoral degrees and are licensed by the state in which they practice. They receive one of the highest levels of education of all health care professionals, spending an average of seven years in education and training after they receive their undergraduate degrees.

Stress in America is part of APA’s Mind/Body Health public education campaign. For additional information on stress and lifestyle and behavior, visit Helpcenter, read the campaign blog, and follow @apahelpcenter on Twitter.

Psychologists are available immediately for interviews related to holiday stress prevention and management. To request an interview, contact Angel Brownawell or Luana Bossolo.


The 2009 Stress in America Survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the American Psychological Association, between July 21, 2009 and August 4, 2009 among 1,568 adults aged 18+ who reside in the U.S. This report also includes the results of a YouthQuery survey conducted between August 19 and 27, 2009 among 1,206 young people aged 8-17 years old. Results were weighted as needed for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting health, education, and human welfare.

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