Stress in Atlanta

Atlanta mapAtlantans* evaluate their stress and stressors similarly to other adults nationally. However, work and job stability are of particular concern to those living in Atlanta. This year, Atlantans report the lowest stress levels since Stress in America™ reporting began in 2008. However, the percentage of Atlanta residents who reported that their work is a stressor is at its highest level since 2008. Work, the economy and job stability are mentioned more commonly by Atlantans than by adults nationally. Atlanta residents continue to report that being physically active is important to them.

Perceptions of Stress and Its Sources

In 2011, fewer Atlantans reported high levels of stress compared to 2010, a downward trend that began in 2009. Atlanta residents are more likely than those across the U.S. to recognize the impact that different health and lifestyle factors can have on health; yet, they are not more likely to report that their personal health is impacted by their stress level.

  • Compared to nationwide numbers, a larger proportion of Atlantans recognize that health and lifestyle factors can strongly impact a person’s health, specifically as it relates to obesity (94 percent vs. 86 percent), stress (93 percent vs. 83 percent), poor diet (88 percent vs. 81 percent), alcohol use (87 percent vs. 78 percent) and poor eating habits (87 percent vs. 77 percent).

  • Yet, Atlanta residents are no more likely than adults nationally to report that their stress level has a strong impact on their physical health (35 percent vs. 37 percent).

  • Atlanta residents report an average stress level of 5.3 (on a 10-point scale, where 1 is little or no stress and 10 is a great deal of stress), similar to the 5.2 level reported nationally.

  • The percentage of Atlantans reporting work as a stressor is at its highest level since reporting began in 2008 (77 percent in 2011, compared to 70 percent in 2010, 61 percent in 2009 and 74 percent in 2008).

Economic Concerns and Stress

Atlanta residents generally evaluate their stress and stressors similarly to adults nationally. However, work and job stability are of particular concern to Atlantans as compared to Americans overall.

  • Work (77 percent vs. 70 percent), the economy (73 percent vs. 67 percent) and job stability (57 percent vs. 49 percent) are mentioned by Atlantans as stressors more commonly compared to their national counterparts.

  • The number of Atlantans reporting that work is a source of stress is at an all-time high. This year, 77 percent of Atlanta residents said that work is a significant stressor, compared with 70 percent in 2010, 61 percent in 2009 and 74 percent in 2008.

Similarly, the number of Atlantans reporting that job stability is a significant source of stress is also at its highest level (57 percent in 2011, compared with 51 percent in 2010, 45 percent in 2009 and 47 percent in 2008).

Stress and Well-Being

Data suggest that compared to the nation overall, Atlantans have higher levels of life satisfaction and satisfaction with the elements that contribute to quality of life. Atlantans evaluate their health similarly to adults nationwide. Atlantans recognize that stress can contribute to the development of disease and make existing health problems worse.

  • Seventy-three percent of Atlanta residents report that they are very or somewhat satisfied with their lives (compared to 66 percent of Americans overall).

  • Atlanta residents are more likely than adults nationwide to report that having a good relationship with their family (86 percent vs. 76 percent), doing well in their career or studies (71 percent vs. 59 percent) and being physically active or fit (67 percent vs. 54 percent) are extremely or very important to them.

  • Since 2010, more Atlantans report that being physically active or fit is important to them (67 percent in 2011 vs. 56 percent in 2010).

  • There remains a gap between what aspects of well-being Atlantans find important and how well they are achieving these goals. The largest gaps between importance and achievement are getting enough sleep (44 percentage point gap between importance and achievement), being physically active or fit (35 percentage point gap), managing stress (29 percentage point gap) and eating healthily (29 percentage point gap).

  • Atlantans agree that stress can contribute to the development of disease (95 percent vs. 94 percent nationally) and make existing health problems worse (87 percent vs. 81 percent nationally).

  • Forty-three percent of Atlanta residents report their health as excellent or very good (similar to 41 percent, nationally).

  • Atlantans are more likely than those across the nation to report that they have tried to exercise more (84 percent vs. 75 percent) and get more sleep (68 percent vs. 58 percent) in the last 5 years.

  • For those Atlantans who are exercising, the primary motivators are weight management (65 percent vs. 59 percent), energy (54 percent vs. 47 percent) and stress management (51 percent vs. 44 percent).

Managing Stress

Atlantans manage their stress in ways that are similar to adults nationwide.

  • Equal proportions of adults nationally (57 percent) and in Atlanta (57 percent) say they are doing enough to manage their stress.

  • More Atlanta residents report that they have tried to reduce their stress compared to U.S. adults (65 percent vs. 60 percent).

  • The most common stress management techniques — listening to music, exercising or walking — are the same for Atlanta residents and adults nationwide.

  • More than half of Atlantans (56 percent) do an excellent or very good job of knowing when they are feeling stressed. However, they are less able to manage or reduce stress once they experience it (33 percent).

  • Atlanta residents are significantly more likely than adults nationally to believe that psychologists can help a great deal or a lot with mental health issues (63 percent vs. 52 percent). Atlantans also generally believe that psychologists can help with coping with grief (55 percent vs. 48 percent), relationship issues (50 percent vs. 42 percent) and stress management (46 percent vs. 41 percent).

Barriers to Change

The most common barriers to change are the same in Atlanta as they are nationwide. However, Atlanta residents report that they are less challenged by the expense associated with change. For those who view willpower as a barrier to change, Atlantans have a different view of what they need in order to change their willpower as compared to adults nationally.

  • Lack of willpower is the most common barrier to change, both in Atlanta (30 percent) and nationwide (27 percent). About the same percentage report lack of time as a barrier (27 percent in Atlanta and 26 percent nationwide).

  • In both Atlanta and nationwide, 71 percent of respondents believe that willpower can be learned. The most common definition of willpower is not giving in to temptation (42 percent in Atlanta and 39 percent nationwide), followed by being motivated or caring enough (31 percent in Atlanta and 30 percent nationwide).

  • To improve willpower, Atlantans report that they need more confidence in their ability to make changes (53 percent vs. 40 percent) and need to feel better about themselves (49 percent vs. 36 percent).

  • Compared to national numbers, fewer Atlantans report a need for more time for themselves in order to improve willpower (14 percent vs. 30 percent).

  • Atlantans believe that help from a professional (30 percent vs. 22 percent) and more flexibility in their work schedule (31 percent vs. 21 percent) would help them improve their willpower.

  • Atlanta residents are less likely to report that expense is a barrier to change compared to adults, nationally (10 percent vs. 17 percent).


* This section of the report focuses only on the views of residents within the Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area (2008 n=243; 2009 n=201; 2010 n=213; 2011 n=279) and the general population (2008 n=1,791; 2009 n=1,568; 2010 n=1,134; 2011 n=1,226).