stress

Chronic stress is hazardous to health and can lead to early death from heart disease, cancer and of other health problems. But it turns out it doesn't matter whether the stress comes from major events in life or from minor problems. Both can be deadly.

And it may be that it's not the stress from major life events like divorce, illness and job loss trickled down to everyday life that gets you; it's how you react to the smaller, everyday stress.

The most stressed-out people have the highest risk of premature death, according to one study that followed 1,293 men for years.

If anyone can handle the stress of parenting in the teen years, you'd think it would be a high school teacher.

That's how Amy Myers felt. She teaches high school English in a suburb of Boise, Idaho, where she says she has "pseudo parented" about 3,000 teenagers "who I have talked to, given advice to, guided, directed, even lectured about teenage issues," she says.

This Is Your Stressed-Out Brain On Scarcity

Jul 14, 2014

Being poor is stressful. That's no big surprise.

In a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 1 in 3 people making less than $20,000 a year said they'd experienced "a great deal of stress" in the previous month. And of those very stressed-out people, 70 percent said that money problems were to blame.

If you're feeling stressed these days, the news media may be partly to blame.

At least that's the suggestion of a national survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Ask somebody about stress, and you're likely to hear an outpouring about all the bad things that cause it — and the bad things that result. But if you ask a biologist, you'll hear that stress can be good.

In fact, it's essential.

Stress is bad for your health. And bad health causes a lot of stress.

Poor health and disability are common among people who say they suffer from a lot of stress, according to a national poll by NPR, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

And it's not just those whose own health is poor. Serious illness and injury often impose enormous stress on entire families.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The modern idea of stress began on a rooftop in Canada, with a handful of rats freezing in the winter wind.

This was 1936 and by that point the owner of the rats, an endocrinologist named Hans Selye, had become expert at making rats suffer for science.

"He would subject them to extreme temperatures, make them go hungry for long periods, or make them exercise a lot," the medical historian Mark Jackson says. "Then what he would do is kill the rats and look at their organs."

Everyone seems to talk about feeling stressed out. But what's the reality of stress in America these days?

NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a nationwide poll in March and early April to find out.

Our questions zeroed in on the effect of stress in Americans' lives. We asked about people's personal experiences with stress in the preceding month and year. We also asked about how they perceived the effects of stress, how they cope with stress and their attitudes about it.

Stress is part of the human condition, unavoidable and even necessary to a degree. But too much stress can be toxic — even disabling.

And there's a lot of toxic stress out there.

A national poll done by NPR with our partners at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health finds that more than 1 in every 4 Americans say they had a great deal of stress in the previous month.