Stress Is Destroying Americans' Ability to Enjoy Life: 2023 Data

Matt Brannon

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Matt Brannon

April 10th, 2023
Updated April 10th, 2023

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A majority of Americans say they're more stressed now than ever before.

😓 The State of Stress in America 😓
About 61% of Americans say their stress level is at an all-time high, with 55% saying they're unable to enjoy life due to stress.

An Epidemic of Stress | Young Americans and Stress | The Most Stressful Decade | Financial Stress | The Cost of Living | Housing Stress | Stress at Work | Relationships and Stress | Stress Relief and Therapy

Modern science has shown that stress is more than simple annoyance. Stress can contribute to a weakened immune system, digestive problems, and high blood pressure — increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.[1]

In a literal sense, a stressful society harms its people. A new survey of 1,000 U.S. adults from Clever shows just how much stress the average American faces on a daily basis.

More than 3 in 5 Americans (61%) say their stress is at an all-time high, and 59% say the past 12 months have been the most stressful of their entire lives.

Although stress comes from many sources, the data shows financial struggles have the most significant impact on Americans' negative mental state.

About 4 in 5 Americans (80%) are stressed about the cost of living, and 61% of Americans say financial stress has caused them to experience physical symptoms, such as headaches or a lack of sleep.

The data shows a clear generational gap — with younger Americans reporting noticeably higher levels of stress than their older counterparts. More than half of both Gen Zers and millennials (55%) say they struggle to function because of stress, compared to just 30% of baby boomers.

Read on for more insights about what's causing stress to Americans.

📊 Key Statistics: Stress in America

  • 55% of Americans are unable to enjoy life because of stress. Jump to section👇
    • 30% of Americans are not taking any steps to improve their mental health.
    • 48% of Americans cry at least once a week.
  • 65% of millennials and 64% of Gen Zers say their stress is at an all-time high. 👇
  • 59% of Americans say the past year has been the most stressful of their lives.
    • A plurality of Americans (45%) consider the 2020s the most stressful decade of the past 60 years. 👇
  • 61% of Americans are stressed about their personal finances, and 44% say they've skipped meals to afford bills. 👇
    • 80% of Americans are stressed about the cost of living, and 73% are stressed about inflation. 👇
  • 64% of millennials are stressed about housing prices. 👇
    • 34% of homeowners say they'd be less stressed if they didn't own a home. 👇
  • 57% of American workers are stressed about their pay, and 46% are stressed about a poor work-life balance. 👇
    • Black workers are 41% more likely than white workers to stress about a lack of diversity in the workplace. 👇
  • 59% of Americans say stress negatively affects their relationships. 👇
  • 43% of Americans overeat to cope with stress, and 39% drink alcohol to deal with stress. 👇
  • 77% of Americans say the world would be a better place if more people prioritized mental health. 👇
    • 52% of Americans are willing to pay more in taxes for the government to provide better mental health services.

55% of Americans Say They're Unable to Enjoy Life Due to Stress

Stress prevents more than half of Americans (55%) from enjoying their lives. In fact, more than 3 in 5 Americans (61%) say they experience physical symptoms, such as headaches or a lack of sleep, because of stress.

Discussing stress and mental health has become less taboo over the past few years.[2] Despite progress on that front, Americans, especially young Americans, still face considerable mental health challenges.

About 57% of Americans say they're stressed about their mental health — with millennials (62%) and Gen Z (70%) twice as likely to say so as baby boomers (32%).

Just as concerning as high stress levels, 30% of Americans say they're not taking any steps to improve their mental health. Many are likely feeling too overwhelmed — about 48% of Americans told us they cry at least once a week.

Young Americans Say They Are More Stressed Than Ever Before

Millennials and Gen Z are practically competing to see which generation is the most stressed. Nearly two-thirds of millennials (65%) and Gen Zers (64%) say they're more stressed now than ever before, compared to just 43% of baby boomers.

About 61% of Gen Zers describe their amount of stress as "unreasonable," and 59% of Gen Zers say they have more stress than the average person. Millennials and Gen Z (55%) are nearly twice as likely as baby boomers (30%) to say they struggle to function because of stress.

The younger a generation is, the more likely it is to rate its mental health as poor or very poor:

  • Gen Z (48%)
  • Millennials (40%)
  • Gen X (34%)
  • Boomers (17%)

Millennials, on average, rate their stress highest on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is not stressed and 10 is very stressed:

  • Gen Z: 7.00
  • Millennials: 7.18
  • Gen X: 6.96
  • Baby boomers: 6.06

Americans Say the 2020s Have Been the Most Stressful Decade of the Last 60 Years

Americans feel they're living in an exceptionally stressful time. About 59% of Americans, including 67% of Gen Z and 64% of millennials, say the last year has been the most stressful of their entire lives.

Considering the pandemic, heightened political division, and economic uncertainty, it's not hard to see why nearly half of Americans (45%) say the 2020s have been the most stressful decade since the 1960s.

A plurality of Americans (22%) consider the 1990s to be the least stressful decade, followed by the 2000s (19%) and 1980s (17%).

Many Americans say they're more stressed now than they were at other notable times of crisis in the U.S., such as the height of the COVID-19 pandemic (38%) and the Great Recession (44%).

Nearly 2 in 3 Americans Say Social Media Has Been Bad for Society

One factor contributing to Americans' stress may be the easy access to distressing headlines from media outlets, particularly on social media. More than half of Americans (60%) say the news increases their stress.

Additionally, nearly 2 in 3 Americans (63%) say social media has been bad for society, including 69% of Gen Z Americans.

Americans of all age groups say social media has had a negative impact on society:

  • Gen Z (69%)
  • Millennials (62%)
  • Gen X (61%)
  • Baby boomers (63%)

Nearly half of Americans (47%) say politics, and political news specifically, stresses them out.

Personal Finance: 44% of Americans Have Skipped Meals to Afford Bills

Some have nicknamed 2022 "the year of inflation frustration." [3] So it makes sense that Americans in 2023 consider money to be the biggest source of stress in their lives, ranking it ahead of work, relationships, mental health, and physical health.

Overall, 61% of Americans are stressed about their personal finances.

Some are struggling more than others. About 44% of Americans say they have skipped meals to afford bills, with millennials (49%) much more likely to do so than baby boomers (30%).

It's not unusual for Americans to lack a financial safety net. About 7 in 10 Americans (69%) say they're stressed about not having enough emergency savings.

The most common sources of financial stress are:

  • Not having enough emergency savings (69%)
  • Spending more money than they earn (58%)
  • Not having enough money to afford necessities (57%)
  • Not having enough money saved for retirement (57%)
  • Having less money than friends (53%)
  • Paying taxes (51%)
  • Medical bills/debt (47%)
  • Credit card debt (46%)
  • A lack of financial literacy (44%)

Gen Z has an especially bleak outlook, joining the workforce at a time when costs for food, housing, and other necessities are climbing. That may be why 65% of Gen Zers are stressed about spending more money than they earn, more than any other age group.

4 in 5 Americans Are Stressed About the Cost of Living

In addition to stress over personal finances, many Americans are concerned about big-picture issues that impact their quality of life. About 80% of Americans say they're stressed about the overall cost of living in 2023, and 73% are stressed about inflation.

Some of the most stressful national issues for Americans include:

  • The cost of living (80%)
  • Inflation (73%)
  • The economy (72%)
  • The cost of health care (58%)
  • The job market (53%)
  • The COVID-19 pandemic (50%)
  • Climate change (47%)
  • Conflict in other countries (42%)
  • The cost of college tuition (37%)

About 62% of Gen Z respondents are stressed about the job market — the largest share of any generation. They also have the highest share of respondents stressed about the cost of college tuition (47%).

Nearly 2 in 3 Millennials Are Stressed About Housing Prices

The past few decades have seen home prices and rental rates swiftly outpace incomes, making homeownership feel like a pipe dream for many millennials.

More than 3 in 5 Americans (61%) are stressed about housing prices, with millennials (64%) more likely to be stressed than baby boomers (49%).

Nearly half of millennials (44%) say they've skipped meals to afford housing payments at some point — more than double the share of baby boomers (20%) who have done so.

Across all ages, 39% of Americans have skipped meals to afford housing payments. Additionally, 45% of Americans — including 50% of millennials — have taken on extra work to afford housing at one time or another.

88% of Homeowners Find Some Aspect of Their Home Stressful

Although many potential home buyers are facing an uphill battle with high prices and interest rates, current homeowners aren't necessarily feeling that much better.

About 88% of homeowners find some aspect of owning a home stressful, including:

  • Maintenance (47%)
  • Unexpected expenses (47%)
  • The general cost of owning a home (41%)
  • Their current mortgage rate (23%)
  • Bad neighbors (19%)
  • Disliking where they live (18%)

In fact, a whopping 34% of homeowners say they'd be less stressed if they didn't own a home.

84% of Renters Are Stressed About Not Owning a Home

Some homeowners think the grass may be greener as a renter, but most renters (62%) say they'd be less stressed if they were homeowners.

About 84% of renters have been stressed about not owning a home at some point, including 41% who are always or often stressed about not being a homeowner.

Most Common Sources of Workplace Stress: Low Pay and Poor Work-Life Balance

There's a reason why nearly half of Americans (49%) consider Monday the most stressful day of the week: Work is a significant source of pressure for Americans, with 57% stressing about their pay and 46% stressing about a bad work-life balance.

The most common sources of stress in the workplace among workers who aren't self-employed are:

  • Their pay/salary (57%)
  • Poor work-life balance (46%)
  • The amount of work assigned to them (45%)
  • Their work schedule (e.g., lots of hours) (43%)
  • Their immediate boss/supervisor (42%)
  • Not enough paid time off (41%)
  • Their co-workers (40%)
  • Poor benefits (e.g., health insurance, 401k, etc.) (37%)
  • Lack of flexibility (e.g., strict hours, lack of remote work, etc.) (36%)
  • Communications outside of work hours (36%)
  • Lack of job security (33%)
  • Unpaid overtime (31%)
  • Lack of diversity (27%)
  • Excessive meetings (27%)
  • Workplace discrimination (e.g., racism, sexism) (24%)

1 in 3 Black Workers Are Stressed About a Lack of Diversity at Their Job

Discrimination and a lack of diversity are especially stressful for people of color in the workplace.

Black workers are 41% more likely than white workers to cite a lack of diversity as a source of stress and 30% more likely to cite workplace discrimination as a source of stress.

Discrimination, of course, isn't limited to the workplace. Black Americans (73%) in general are 2x as likely as white Americans (34%) to agree with the statement, "Life is especially stressful for people of my race/ethnicity."

3 in 5 Americans Say Stress Negatively Affects Their Relationships

It's not uncommon for Americans to take home stress from work. About 59% of Americans, including 66% of Gen Z, say stress has negatively impacted their relationships with friends and family.

Many are unable to mask their stress even around their loved ones. About 50% of Americans say they've had friends or family comment on their high level of stress.

Just as stress impacts relationships, relationships often impact stress right back. Young Americans are particularly likely to say their relationships are a source of stress.

In general, Americans are most likely to say their kids or spouse/partner are a source of stress, ahead of their parents, siblings, and others.

The most common sources of stress in Americans' personal lives are:

  • Their kid(s) (46%)
  • Their spouse/partner (46%)
  • Their parent(s) (45%)
  • Their sibling(s) (40%)
  • Their ex (34%)
  • Their in-laws (34%)
  • Their neighbor(s) (30%)
  • Their roommate(s) (30%)

Depending on the frequency of stress, some Americans might start quiet quitting their friendships. Just under half of Americans (49%) say their relationships sometimes cause more stress than they're worth.

2 in 5 Americans Drink Alcohol or Overeat to Relieve Stress

Americans have a variety of methods for relieving stress, with some healthier than others. For example, 43% of Americans relieve stress by meditating, the same percentage of people who reduce stress by overeating (43%).

The most common ways to relieve stress are:

  • Listening to music (83%)
  • Watching TV/movies (80%)
  • Napping/sleeping (73%)
  • Talking to a loved one (66%)
  • Interacting with a pet (63%)
  • Crying (59%)
  • Exercising (55%)
  • Reading a book (45%)
  • Overeating (43%)
  • Meditating (43%)
  • Taking time off work (43%)
  • Lashing out at others (41%)
  • Smoking/vaping nicotine/tobacco (40%)
  • Drinking alcohol (39%)
  • Overshopping (34%)
  • Smoking/vaping cannabis (34%)

When it comes to reducing stress, Gen Z is especially likely to get emotional. More than two-thirds (68%) say they relieve stress by crying, and 45% say they lash out at others.

Fewer Than 3 in 10 Americans Say They See a Therapist

Despite the growing demand for mental health services, [4] only about a quarter of Americans (27%) seek outside counseling as a way to reduce stress and improve their mental health.

Of those who don't go to therapy, the most common reason is it's too expensive (27%). Meanwhile, about 1 in 8 Americans (12%) say they don't think therapy even works.

Americans don't see a therapist because:

  • It's too expensive (27%).
  • They don't think they need to see a therapist (24%).
  • They don't think therapy works (12%).
  • They're too busy (11%).
  • It's too hard to get an appointment (9%).

Nearly 4 in 5 Americans Say the World Would Be a Better Place With More Emphasis on Mental Health

Whether or not they're in therapy, most Americans see value in taking mental health more seriously.

When it comes to mental health, Americans say:

  • The world would be a better place with more prioritization of mental health.(77%).
  • There is an unjustified stigma around prioritizing mental health (70%).
  • U.S. society places too little emphasis on maintaining mental health (69%).
  • They're willing to pay more in taxes for the government to provide better access to mental health services (52%).
  • Living in the U.S. is more stressful than living in other developed countries (51%).

Although Americans report high rates of stress, they're optimistic that they'll eventually be in a better place mentally:

  • 59% of Americans say they'll be less stressed a year from now.
  • 71% of Americans say they'll be less stressed 10 years from now.

Methodology

The proprietary data featured in this study comes from an online survey commissioned by Clever Real Estate. One thousand Americans were surveyed Feb. 22-23, 2023. Each respondent answered up to 21 questions related to their level of stress.

Are you a member of the media interested in learning more about our research? Feel free to reach out! Contact this article’s author here.

About Clever

Since 2017, Clever Real Estate has been on a mission to make selling or buying a home easier and more affordable for everyone. 12 million annual readers rely on Clever's library of educational content and data-driven research to make smarter real estate decisions. To date, Clever has helped consumers save more than $160 million on real estate fees. Clever's research has been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, Inman, Housing Wire, and many more.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Stress in America

The most common ways Americans relieve stress are listening to music (83%), watching TV/movies (80%), and taking naps (73%). About 39% say they drink alcohol and 43% overeat to relieve stress. Learn more about Americans' stress relief habits.

Gen Z and millennials are more likely to report being stressed than older Americans. Nearly two-thirds of each group says their stress is at an all-time high. Learn more about how stress impacts young Americans.

The most common source of stress for Americans is money, followed by mental health, physical health, relationships, and career issues. Learn more about Americans' top sources of stress.

ARTICLE SOURCES
[1]

American Psychological Association. "Stress effects on the body." Accessed March 16, 2023. Updated March 8, 2023.

[2]

American Psychological Association. "Survey: Americans Becoming More Open About Mental Health." Accessed March 16, 2023. Updated May 1, 2019.

[3]

Washington Post. "The year of inflation frustration.." Accessed March 16, 2023. Updated Dec. 23, 2022.

[4]

American Psychological Association. "Demand for mental health treatment continues to increase." Accessed March 16, 2023. Updated Oct. 19, 2021.

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