If stress is a normal part of your everyday life, you have company. In fact, nearly 8 in 10 Americans feel stressed at least once in a typical week — with 1 in 7 of them reporting feeling stressed seven days a week, according to the latest ValuePenguin survey.
April is Stress Awareness Month, so ValuePenguin surveyed more than 1,000 Americans on stress — from how often they feel it to how they find ways to relieve the pressure. Here’s what the survey found.
- The majority of Americans are stressed weekly. 78% of Americans feel stressed at least one day in a typical week — and 15% of them are stressed every day. Women are more stressed than men, while Gen Xers (ages 41 to 55) are the most stressed generation.
- Mondays and mornings are the most stressful times of the week. 19% say their stress peaks on Monday, while — separately — 22% say they feel most stressed out in the mornings than any other time of day.
- Money (22%) is the top source of stress for Americans, followed by work and physical health issues. However, millennials are more likely to cite work as a primary stress driver.
- Depending on your age, the person who stresses you out the most is either your boss or your spouse or partner. Millennials (ages 25 to 40) and Gen Zers (ages 18 to 24) both name their boss as their biggest source of stress, while Gen Xers and baby boomers say their spouse or partner causes them more stress than any other person.
- 44% of Americans say the pandemic has been the most stressful time in their entire life. This is especially true for those who are laid off or furloughed (59%) and parents with kids younger than 18 (58%), as well as Gen Zers (54%) and millennials (51%).
- Consumers employ a variety of tactics to reduce stress. This includes watching TV/movies and listening to music (both tied at 44%), exercising (38%), praying or another religious ritual (25%) and driving around (16%). Meanwhile, 14% drink alcohol to reduce stress and 9% use recreational drugs such as marijuana.
Americans are often stressed out — sometimes daily
Chronic stress can cause a wide range of physical and mental health issues, from high blood pressure and heart disease to depression and anxiety. Yet many Americans can’t seem to escape from stress, despite the dangers that it poses.
Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) feel stressed at least one day a week, with 15% of them saying they’re stressed every day of the week.
As shown above, these feelings can vary based on gender, as well as age and other factors. Overall, women are more stressed than men. In fact, 19% are the most stressed, which we’re defining as those who are stressed seven days a week.
Only 11% of men, by comparison, admit experiencing daily stress. Meanwhile, 28% of men say they never feel stressed, compared with 16% of women.
Age may also impact the amount of stress that individuals feel. In fact, 22% of Gen Xers admit to daily struggles with stress, followed by:
- Millennials: 17%
- Gen Zers: 14%
- Baby boomers (ages 56 to 75): 8%
Surprisingly, parents with young kids at home aren’t significantly more stressed than those without — at least in terms of frequency. In fact, 17% of parents with kids younger than 18 say they’re stressed every day, but so do 16% of those with no kids and 13% with adult children.
The income you earn may also affect your stress level. Nearly a quarter of consumers who earn $35,000 or less a year feel stressed every day. But those who earn $100,000-plus a year feel daily stress around half as often (13%) as lower-income earners.
That Monday morning feeling is real for many Americans
Monday is the most stressful day of the week, according to ValuePenguin survey respondents. In fact, 19% say their stress peaks on that day. Sunday comes in second, but at a much lower 7%.
Here’s a look at the other days of the week, according to stress level:
- Most stressed on Wednesdays: 5%
- Most stressed on Tuesdays: 5%
- Most stressed on Fridays: 3%
- Most stressed on Thursdays: 3%
- Most stressed on Saturdays: 2%
- No specific day: 57%
Sterling Price, senior research analyst for ValuePenguin, says the weekend-to-work transition plays a role.
"Monday could be particularly difficult for people due to the beginning of the workweek and the subsequent end of the weekend," Price says. "As people return from having a stress-free and worry-free weekend, they will start to think about the things in their life that they need to get done during the coming week. Often, if these things are difficult tasks, then that will increase the amount of stress they feel."
Millennials (26%) feel more stressed on Mondays than any other generation. Baby boomers (14%) come in last, but this may be because more people within this age group are retired, so not as many face the typical start-of-the-workweek stress that many from younger generations experience.
Particular times of the day also appear to trigger higher stress levels. Overall, more than half of respondents say their stress peaks at certain times. Mornings, unsurprisingly, are the worst for many people, as 22% of Americans say they feel more stressed out in the mornings than any other time of day.
Here’s a look at the other times of the day that impact stress levels:
- Afternoons: 19%
- Evenings: 13%
- Other time of day: 2%
- No specific time: 45%
Gen Zers hate mornings more than any other age group — 35% cite it as the most stressful time of day. However, only 13% of baby boomers feel the same, with 61% in this age group saying that no specific time of day is more stressful than another for them.
Again, there’s a chance that other factors — including retirement and the absence of younger children in the home — could have an impact here. In many cases, baby boomers may no longer have to rush off to work in the morning or prepare young children for school.
Money is the top source of stress for Americans
There are many triggers in life that cause people to be stressed, but money (22%) holds the top spot, followed by work and physical health issues.
A person’s age once again makes a difference when it comes to their sources of stress. Gen Zers (27%) worry about money more than others, while baby boomers (22%) are the most concerned about their physical health.
The graphic below provides a detailed breakdown of Americans’ biggest sources of stress, by age group:
Gen Xers align with Gen Zers with money being the top stressor, while millennials are most worried about work.
In some cases, the right health insurance policy might be able to eliminate or at least reduce the impact of certain stressors. For example, Gen Zers are nearly twice as likely on average to be stressed out by their mental health. And physical health was the third most common cause of stress across the board for all age groups. Your policy could help by providing the medical coverage you need to address physical and mental health challenges.
These are the people who stress Americans out
The people in your life may also be a large source of stress. When the ValuePenguin survey asked if a specific person stresses them out the most, 14% named their spouse/partner, while 10% cited their boss.
Below is a further breakdown of the most stress-inducing person in Americans’ lives:
The person who causes you the most stress can also vary by age:
- Gen Zers: Boss (19%) and parents (19%)
- Millennials: Boss (16%)
- Gen Xers: Spouse/partner (16%)
- Baby boomers: Spouse/partner (13%)
Many Americans have never been as stressed in their lives as they have been during the COVID-19 crisis
For many people, coping with stress has never been more of a challenge than it has been during the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, 44% of Americans say the pandemic has been the most stressful time in their entire life.
Although feelings of stress are high across the board, they’re especially strong for the following groups:
- Those who are laid off or furloughed (59%) during the COVID-19 crisis
- Parents with kids younger than 18 (58%)
- Gen Zers (54%)
- Millennials (51%)
Price recommends people seek help to handle their stress, including talking to a therapist, rather than trying to sweep it under the rug.
Your health insurance may be able to help here.
"Most often, if you do have health insurance — either through the Obamacare marketplace or through your company — there will be in-network providers for therapy that will definitely aid you in managing that stress," Price says.
Stress peaked when the pandemic started for 1 in 5 Americans
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that certain pandemic-related public health actions, like social distancing, can leave people feeling more anxiety and stress. So ValuePenguin asked respondents to share the point during the pandemic when they felt the most stressed.
For 1 in 5 (20%) people, stress peaked when the pandemic started. Another 11% say April and May 2020 was the most stressful time of the pandemic for them. But most people (28%) say their stress never peaked as they’ve been anxious the entire time.
Here are the other times when stress peaked during the COVID-19 crisis:
- Holiday months of 2020 (November and December): 10%
- Summer 2020 (June, July and August): 9%
- September and October 2020: 9%
- Right now: 7%
- After the new year in 2021 (January and February): 6%
Nearly 4 in 10 fear they or a loved one will contract COVID-19
Many worries have occupied the minds of Americans since COVID-19 began to sweep the globe last year. Fear of a loved one contracting the coronavirus or contracting it themselves was the primary pandemic-related stressor for Americans (38% named it as a stressor).
Other pandemic-related worries that caused Americans to stress are outlined below:
Ten percent of parents with children younger than 18 say balancing child care while working remotely is a source of stress in their lives. Yet this concern came up more commonly among women (5%) than it did among men (3%).
How Americans relieve stress: Music, TV, exercise and more
Americans turn to a number of different outlets in an attempt to deal with the stress they feel. You can dig deeper into the full list of stress-relieving activities below:
Only 10% of respondents say they rely on a counselor or therapist to cope with stress. And those who do reach out for professional therapy or counseling are more likely to be women than men.
As for coping mechanisms that could cause more harm than good, 14% drink alcohol to reduce stress and 9% use recreational drugs such as marijuana. Millennials were more likely than other age groups to turn to those two.
Most of all, it’s important not to try to sweep feelings of stress aside or bury them. Reach out to loved ones and family if you’re having increased stress, depression or loneliness. And, of course, talk to your doctor openly about your stress and mental health, especially amid a pandemic.
ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,016 U.S. consumers from March 17-22, 2021. The survey was administered using a non-probability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.
We defined generations as the following ages in 2021:
- Generation Z: 18 to 24
- Millennial: 25 to 40
- Generation X: 41 to 55
- Baby boomer: 56 to 75
While the survey also included consumers from the silent generation (defined as those 76 and older), the sample size was too small to include findings related to that group in the generational breakdowns.