From the CEO

Educating the public about psychology through news coverage is one of the most important activities of APA. As the number and variety of news media outlets have grown, so too have the opportunities to communicate with the public. Still, getting the attention of the mainstream media is not always easy. Journalists look for definitive, newsworthy topics and findings as a basis for talking about psychology.

One topic that is consistently of interest is how mental and behavioral health is connected to stress and chronic illnesses, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. The APA Stress in America surveys provide journalists with the type of news angle they want: high-quality, empirical evidence of the long-term impact chronic stress has on our physical and emotional health and the health of our families.

This year’s survey has found, for example, that most Americans are suffering from moderate to high stress, with 44 percent reporting that their stress levels have increased over the past five years. Americans are most stressed about money, work and the economy, with 49 percent of respondents citing such fears of job loss as a source of stress — up from 44 percent last year. In addition, the survey found that many Americans aren’t coping well with their stress. For example, only 27 percent of respondents were happy about their level of exercise, and two-fifths reported they were overeating or eating unhealthy foods due to stress. (For more highlights on the survey, see Stressed in America in this month's issue.)

The news stories generated by these survey results help position APA and psychology as a leading resource of research on, and the prevention and treatment of, stress. By drawing attention to as the contribution of stress and unhealthy behaviors to chronic illnesses, APA is promoting the value of psychologists in researching and treating health problems. This is particularly important now as our country continues to debate health care and faces major health epidemics, including diabetes, obesity and chronic pain.

APA first commissioned a nationwide consumer survey on stress in 2006 as part of our Mind/Body Health campaign. The survey was officially coined Stress in America in 2007 when APA began working with Harris Interactive, a market research firm, to conduct an online survey that adheres to the highest standards of public opinion research. The survey compiles data on the Americans’ leading sources of stress, its impact and the most common ways we manage that stress.

In just the past three years, survey findings have been featured in thousands of news stories, generating more than $8 million dollars worth of publicity for psychology. Within the first week of releasing the 2010 survey report, more than 800 stories appeared in the mainstream news media. The media outlets covering the story — including newspapers, online news channels, television programs and radio stations — have the potential to reach an audience of 260 million people. In addition, the Stress in America survey results have been cited in resources and work by leading figures and organizations, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the 2009 report A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress.

Public education efforts such as Stress in America are a way of bringing public perceptions and understanding more in line with our own professional identity, as agents of change for a healthier America. APA members can be very proud of this effort.

For more on the survey, visit the Stress in America website.