Stress in Chicago

Chicago* workers are more likely to report feeling stress at work in 2010 and less likely to say that they are satisfied with their jobs. At the same time, more than four in 10 report that their stress has increased in the past year. Increasing numbers of Chicago residents report having been diagnosed with high blood pressure this year, and health issues are cited more frequently as sources of stress in Chicago than previously. In addition, residents of Chicago are more likely than Americans nationally to say they engage in unhealthy behaviors to manage stress.

  • Even though Chicago residents report a lower average stress level this year (5.5 on a 10-point scale) compared with last year (5.8 on a 10-point scale), four in 10 (44 percent) of them say their stress levels have increased in the past year. 

  • Work (74 percent), the economy (71 percent) and money (70 percent) are frequently cited sources of stress in Chicago. 

  • The percentage of Chicago residents who report feeling tense or stressed out during the work day climbed from 28 percent in 2009 to 37 percent in 2010. 

  • Just 60 percent of Chicago-area employees report being satisfied with their jobs, down from 66 percent last year and 74 percent two years ago. 

  • Chicago residents are more likely than American adults overall to report “personal health concerns” (63 percent vs. 52 percent) and “family health concerns” (59 percent vs. 47 percent) as a somewhat or very significant source of stress. In Chicago, concerns about personal health increased dramatically as a source of stress in 2010 (up from 37 percent in 2009), as did concerns about family health (up from 43 percent in 2009). 

  • Similar to findings about Americans in general, Chicago residents were likely to rate the importance of behaviors that improve well-being considerably higher than their personal achievement in these areas. The biggest reported gaps between importance and achievement were in the areas of sleep and stress management. 

 Nearly six out of 10 adults in Chicago (57 percent) say that getting enough sleep is extremely/very important but only one in four (25 percent) say they are doing an excellent/very good job of doing so.

 Managing stress is a close second in terms of the gap between importance and achievement; while six in 10 Chicagoans (59 percent) feel it is important, only 35 percent say they are successful in their efforts.

Health and Exercise

While half of adults (51 percent) in Chicago say they are doing enough to manage their stress, many are reporting they turn to unhealthy behaviors to manage stress and are experiencing health-related symptoms of stress.

  • More Chicago residents report that being too busy prevents them from doing more to relieve their stress (24 percent) than did last year (18 percent). 

  • Chicagoans are more likely to report that they eat to manage stress than Americans overall (35 percent vs. 26 percent). 

  • Nearly half of Chicago residents said they had lain awake at night (47 percent) or eaten too much or unhealthy foods (49 percent) in the past month as a result of stress. 

  • Many Chicago residents report physical and emotional symptoms of stress, like fatigue (46 percent) and irritability or anger (44 percent). In addition, the percentage of Chicago residents reporting that they feel depressed because of stress rose from 28 percent in 2009 to 40 percent in 2010. 

  • The percentage of Chicago residents reporting that a doctor told them they had high blood pressure jumped significantly (from 19 percent in 2009 to 29 percent in 2010). 

  • Four out of 10 Chicago residents have been told by their doctors to make lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise (45 percent), losing weight (39 percent) or eating a healthier diet (31 percent). However, fewer than half (46 percent) of Chicago adults exercise regularly and one in four (23 percent) do not exercise at all. 

  • Chicago residents are more likely than Americans overall to say their family does not try to eat healthy foods (9 percent vs. 4 percent). Overall, four in 10 Chicagoans report it takes a great amount or some effort to get their families to eat healthy foods (44 percent).

No Easy Fix

While Chicagoans report that a lack of willpower is the most commonly mentioned barrier preventing them from making the changes recommended to them by a health care provider, fewer Chicagoans report willpower as a factor than did so last year (cited by 32 percent of residents compared with 46 percent in 2009). More Chicagoans this year, however, report that cost is a barrier preventing them from making lifestyle and behavior changes — those who said “it is too expensive” when asked what prevented them from making the lifestyle changes recommended by their health care provider rose from 10 percent in 2009 to 25 percent this year.

When those who exercise less than once a week were asked to identify what prevented them from exercising, adults living in Chicago said the biggest barrier was a lack of motivation (36 percent), followed by being too tired (31 percent), not liking exercise (29 percent) or being too busy (27 percent).

Impact of Illinois Financial Crisis

When asked if they were concerned or worried that the state’s financial crisis may impact their personal life or their families, four in 10 Chicago residents said that they are worried that it will impact their ability to access health care services (40 percent), personal safety (39 percent) or the availability of emergency services (39 percent).

*This section of the report focuses only on the views of residents within the Chicago MSA (2008 n=231; 2009 n=208; 2010 n=208) and the general population (2008 n=1,791; 2009 n=1,568; 2010 n=1,134).