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Stress: A Healthcare Challenge

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Stress is a significant health care problem that affects both physical as well as the mental health of people. Stress is defined as a situation where the organism‘s homeostasis is threatened or the organism perceives a situation as threatening. Stress within our comfort zone can help us perform under pressure, motivate us to do our best, and even keep us safe in the face of danger. However, when stress becomes overwhelming and is prolonged, it can damage our mood and relationships, and lead to many serious mental and physical health problems.

Stress levels of adults continue to rise in the developed world such as the United States, Europe and Singapore. In a 2015 report by American Psychological Association (APA), American adults rate their average stress level as 5.1 out of 10 which is up from 4.9 in 2014. American adults report that a healthy stress level at 3.8 which means that the actual average stress level is 1.3 points higher than the healthy stress level. In addition, compared to just a year earlier, a greater percentage of American adults report experiencing at least one symptom of stress (78% in 2015 vs. 75% in 2014). The same study linked stress with health problems. Those who reported their health as only “fair” or “poor” have higher stress levels on average than those who identified their health as “very good” or “excellent.”

Another report conducted by Statistics Brain in July 2016 found that 77% of Americans regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress and 73% regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress. In the same study, 48% report that stress has a negative impact on their personal and professional life. Annual costs to US employers in stress related health care and missed work are as high as $300 billion. The study reported that the most common causes of stress are: 1) job pressure 2) money 3) health 4) relationships 5) poor nutrition 6) media overload, and 7) sleep deprivation (Statistics Brain, 2016).

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