Stress in Chicago

ChicagoChicago residents* believe that they are in good health and doing better at managing stress than they reported in 2010.They are also generally satisfied with their lives. However, they do find work, career and financial matters of particular concern. Although the perceived levels of overall stress in Chicago have been declining since 2009, money is now a greater stressor than it has been in previous years. Most Chicago residents believe that stress can have a strong impact on health, and the majority of Chicagoans believe that chronic stress is treatable.

Perception of Stress and Its Sources

Chicagoans report moderate levels of stress, but their reported stress levels are still higher than what they consider a “healthy” stress level.

  • Chicago residents’ average stress level is 5.6 (on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is little or no stress and 10 is a great deal of stress), but they believe that a healthy stress level is around 3.8.

  • Generally, Chicagoans are satisfied with various aspects of their lives, such as relationships with family (74 percent), spouse/partner (73 percent) and friends (72 percent).

  • There has been much fluctuation in the causes of stress over time. Compared with last year, money is a stressor for more people this year (81 percent in 2011 vs. 70 percent in 2010). Family health (50 percent in 2011 vs. 59 percent in 2010) and personal health (49 percent in 2011 vs. 63 percent in 2010) are not as concerning.

Economic Concerns and Stress

Particular areas of concern for Chicago residents are work/career and financial security. Subsequently, work and money are top stressors for them.

  • The most significant sources of stress in Chicago include money (81 percent), work (75 percent) and the economy (73 percent). These are stressors for more adults in Chicago than the rest of the nation (75 percent, 70 percent and 67 percent, respectively).

  • This year, money is a greater stressor for Chicago residents than it was in 2010 (81 percent in 2011 vs. 70 percent in 2010).

  • Compared to national numbers, fewer Chicago residents are satisfied with their work (31 percent in Chicago vs. 54 percent nationally) or with their financial security (39 percent in Chicago vs. 44 percent nationally)."

  • More Chicagoans are dissatisfied with their work (33 percent) than people nationwide (25 percent).

Stress and Well-Being

Chicago residents are generally satisfied with their lives and with the aspects that contribute to quality of life. However, they agree that stress can impact health and are feeling the impact of stress in their lives.

  • Chicago residents are generally satisfied with their lives (61 percent very/somewhat satisfied).

  • A majority of Chicagoans (87 percent) believe they are in good, very good or excellent health, up from 79 percent in 2010.

  • Over the past 5 years, the majority of Chicago residents have tried to eat healthier (80 percent), exercise more (77 percent), lose weight (66 percent), reduce stress (65 percent) and get more sleep (60 percent).

  • About 4 in 10 Chicago residents have made the changes they set out to make in managing or reducing their stress, with the most success in getting more sleep (44 percent) and exercising more (43 percent).

  • Fifty-four percent of Chicagoans exercise more than once a week (up from 47 percent in 2010).

  • Most Chicago residents agree that lifestyle factors can have a strong impact on health, including drug use (88 percent), obesity (84 percent) and stress (84 percent).

  • Chicago residents believe that stress can have a stronger impact on their physical health (34 percent strong/very strong impact) than on their mental health (29 percent).

  • Almost all Chicagoans (97 percent) believe that stress can contribute to the development of disease, and a majority (80 percent) believe that chronic stress can make existing problems worse.

  • Fortunately, most Chicago residents (90 percent) believe that chronic stress is treatable. This is higher than the national average of 82 percent.

  • Because of stress, 48 percent of Chicago residents reported having trouble sleeping at least once in the past month. Two in 5 (38 percent) reported having overeaten or eaten unhealthily due to stress in the past month.

  • Additionally, a high proportion of Chicagoans feel overwhelmed due to stress (44 percent in Chicago vs. 34 percent nationally).

Managing Stress

Chicago residents are taking steps to reduce stress, such as listening to music, exercising and reading. However, they do not believe they are good at preventing or managing stress when they do experience it.

  • Compared to their national counterparts, only about half of Chicagoans believe they are doing enough to manage stress (49 percent in Chicago vs. 57 percent nationwide).

  • Chicago residents agree that it is important to manage stress; however, they do not believe that they are adequately managing their stress. There is a 31-point gap between the perceived importance of stress management and how well Chicago residents believe they are doing at managing stress.

  • Fifty-six percent of Chicago residents report that they know when they are stressed, and 46 percent know what their stressors are.

  • Half of Chicago residents (51 percent) say they try to focus on the positive, while 49 percent avoid people and situations that trigger stress.

  • Fewer than a third of Chicago residents believe that they are doing an excellent or very good job at preventing stress (19 percent), managing stress when they experience it (25 percent) and recovering fully after becoming stressed (31 percent).

  • More than half (52 percent) of Chicagoans believe that a psychologist can help a great deal or a lot with stress management, compared to 41 percent nationally.

Barriers to Change

For Chicago residents, lack of willpower is the primary barrier to change.

  • Forty percent of Chicago residents indicated that a lack of willpower has prevented them from making recommended or desired healthy lifestyle changes (compared to 27 percent nationally).

  • The majority of Chicagoans (76 percent) and U.S. adults (71 percent) believe that willpower can be learned. Lack of willpower is commonly defined as “giving in to temptation.”

  • For those who believe that willpower is a barrier to making lifestyle changes, internal factors to increase willpower include more confidence in their ability to make a change (45 percent) and more energy (42 percent). The most important external factors for increasing their willpower include more time (42 percent) and money (39 percent).

  • To improve willpower, there is a greater emphasis compared to 2010 on feeling better about oneself (37 percent), having more time for oneself (36 percent), having less stress (30 percent) and having more flexibility at work (27 percent).


* This section of the report focuses only on the views of residents within the Chicago Metropolitan Statistical Area (2008 n=231; 2009 n=208; 2010 n=208; 2011 n=276) and the general population (2008 n=1,791; 2009 n=1,568; 2010 n=1,134; 2011 n=1,226).