Stress in Los Angeles

Los AngelesAdults in Los Angeles* consider a higher stress level to be healthy in comparison to the rest of the nation. Unlike Americans overall, fewer report a decrease in their stress over the past 5 years. However, they are more likely to consult a psychologist for help managing their stress and are more likely than the rest of the nation to report successfully making lifestyle changes such as having a healthier diet, exercising more and losing weight.

Perception of Stress and Its Sources

Adults in Los Angeles, similar to Americans nationwide, report higher levels of stress than what they consider to be healthy and those in Los Angeles consider a healthy stress level to be higher than what the rest of the nation believes. Unlike the rest of the nation, fewer people report diminishing stress over the past 5 years.

Although 43 percent of Los Angeles adults report an increase in stress levels over the past 5 years, physical symptoms of stress appear to have gone down during the same time period. More than half of Los Angeles residents report that they’re doing enough to manage stress. They list exercise, listening to music and reading as top strategies for managing stress. They are also more likely than Americans overall to believe that a psychologist can help with stress management (51 percent vs. 41 percent).

  • Los Angeles residents report a similar average level of stress than adults nationwide (5.3 vs. 5.2 nationally on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is little or no stress and 10 is a great deal of stress).

  • For Los Angeles residents, overall stress levels are continuing to level off since the high levels seen in 2008. But 4 in 10 adults in Los Angeles say that over the past 5 years their level of stress has increased, which is similar to what Americans nationwide report.

  • While the rest of the nation is seeing a growing number of adults report diminishing stress, the opposite is true in L.A. In 2011, only 22 percent said stress levels had decreased over the past 5 years, compared to 25 percent last year and 31 percent in 2009. Nationally, 27 percent said their stress had decreased over the past 5 years.

  • Money (74 percent), work (73 percent) and the economy (64 percent) top the list of items that cause stress for the largest numbers of L.A. residents. This is similar to the causes of stress nationally (75 percent, 70 percent and 67 percent, respectively).

Stress and Well-Being

Los Angeles adults recognize the link between stress and their health. Furthermore, they are willing to get help from others and work to make positive changes in their lives. They are somewhat more successful than those nationwide in making some, but not all, of those changes.

  • Four in 10 (42 percent) Los Angeles adults (vs. 37 percent nationally) say that stress has a very strong or strong impact on their body or physical health. A similar proportion of adults in Los Angeles (43 percent) believe that stress has a very strong or strong impact on their mental health, larger than 35 percent nationally.

  • Though a slightly larger percentage of adults in Los Angeles report being very or somewhat satisfied with their health (73 percent vs. 70 percent nationally), they are somewhat more likely to report having been told to exercise more (49 percent vs. 44 percent nationally), lose weight (42 percent vs. 37 percent), and eat a healthier diet (43 percent vs. 35 percent).

  • Among those who attempted to make a lifestyle change, a greater number of adults in L.A. than those nationwide say they have been successful at eating a healthier diet(48 percent vs. 44 percent), exercising more (45 percent vs. 39 percent) and losing weight (39 percent vs. 30 percent). However, 34 percent say they have not been successful at reducing stress (vs. 38 percent nationally).

Managing Stress

Adults in Los Angeles are more likely than adults nationally to see a mental health professional to help manage stress and are more likely to say that a psychologist can help when it comes to a number of issues or problems experienced in life.

  • More than half of Los Angeles residents (55 percent) and Americans overall (57 percent) believe that they are doing enough to manage their stress.

  • Reflecting national trends, listening to music or exercising top the list of activities that Los Angeles residents are doing the most to help manage their stress.

  • In addition, more Los Angeles residents than Americans overall say that they see a mental health professional to help manage their stress (7 percent vs. 3 percent).

  • More adults in Los Angeles than nationally believe that a psychologist can help them cope with mental health issues (68 percent vs. 52 percent), cope with grief (59 percent vs. 48 percent), manage their stress (51 percent vs. 41 percent), make lifestyle and behavior changes (45 percent vs. 34 percent), strike a work/life balance (34 percent vs. 25 percent) and plan for their career (25 percent vs. 13 percent).

Barriers to Change

A lack of strategies for making behavior changes, along with insufficient willpower and time, appear to be hindering L.A. residents’ ability to reduce stress.

  • Only one-third of adults in Los Angeles (34 percent) and nationally (38 percent) who attempted to reduce their stress have been successful in doing so.

  • Lack of willpower (31 percent) and lack of time (29 percent) are the top two barriers that prevented Los Angeles residents from accomplishing the lifestyle changes they had decided to make.


* This report focuses only on the views of residents within the Los Angeles MSA (2008 n=256; 2009 n=205; 2010 n=211; 2011 n=281) and the general population (2008 n=1,791; 2009 n= 1,568; 2010 n=1,134; 2011 n=1,226).