Stress in Denver

DenverDenver residents* report experiencing less stress than they did last year, and they experience less stress than Americans overall. Over the past year, Denver residents report engaging in unhealthy behaviors less often. They also believe they are able to recognize stressful situations and manage their stress well. Denver residents engage in healthy behaviors and exercise more regularly than Americans overall. Denver residents also report greater satisfaction with their lives compared to their national counterparts.

Perception of Stress and Its Sources

On average, adults in Denver are less likely than their national counterparts to report a great deal of stress and appear to be more satisfied with their personal relationships.

  • Denver residents’ average stress level is 4.6 (on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is little or no stress and 10 is a great deal of stress), compared to the national average of 5.2.

  • Although adults in Denver report less stress on average, they have about the same perception of what is a healthy level of stress as adults nationally (3.5 in Denver vs. 3.6 nationally).

  • Less than half (45 percent) of Denver residents report relationships as a significant source of stress (compared to 58 percent nationally), and only 41 percent list family responsibilities as a source of stress compared to 57 percent nationally.

Economic Concerns and Stress

Although Denver residents are generally satisfied with many aspects of their lives, work and finances are areas where they appear to be slightly less satisfied. Additionally, financial matters are significant causes of stress for adults in Denver.

  • Six in 10 Denver residents express satisfaction with work (59 percent) and fewer than half (45 percent) feel the same way about their financial security.

  • Compared to national averages, money, work and the economy are sources of stress for similar proportions of adults in Denver (money: 75 percent nationally vs. 79 percent in Denver; work: 70 percent nationally vs. 67 percent in Denver; and the economy: 67 percent nationally vs. 68 percent in Denver).

Stress and Well-Being

Adults in Denver show high levels of awareness when it comes to factors that can impact one’s health. They tend to be more physically active than their national counterparts and value strong relationships with their family and friends. They also appear to be aware of the physical and emotional health consequences associated with stress.

  • Denver residents report that they are very or somewhat satisfied with life (76 percent), much higher than the national average (66 percent).

  • High levels of satisfaction may be a result of the high levels of achievement Denver residents report experiencing in relationships with family and friends. About two-thirds (67 percent) of Denver residents indicate that they are excellent or very good at achieving a good relationship with their family (compared to 56 percent of adults nationwide).

  • Eighty-three percent of adults in Denver believe that it is extremely or very important to have a good relationship with their family, and 68 percent believe that is it extremely/very important to have a good relationship with their friends.

  • Denver residents report being in good health. About 38 percent say their health is good, 39 percent report that their health is very good and 10 percent say that their health is excellent.

  • Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Denver residents exercise at least a few times a week. Those who exercise say that it helps them manage their weight (64 percent) and their stress (52 percent).

  • Adults in Denver believe that the following can have a strong or very strong impact on health: drug use (90 percent), obesity (89 percent) and stress (86 percent).

  • While almost all Denver residents (98 percent) believe that stress can contribute to the development of disease, less than half of adults in Denver believe stress has a slight to no impact on their physical health (44 percent) or their mental health (39 percent).

  • Fewer Denver residents report having experienced physical symptoms of stress within the last month compared to those nationwide: feeling nervous/anxious (29 percent in Denver vs. 39 percent nationally); feeling depressed/sad (27 percent vs. 37 percent) and headache (22 percent vs. 32 percent).

  • Although Denver residents report that unhealthy behaviors such as having lain awake at night, overeating or skipping meals have decreased over the past year, stress still causes unhealthy behaviors in about one-quarter to one-third of adults in Denver (25 – 35 percent).

Managing Stress

The percentage of adults in Denver who believe they are doing enough to manage their stress has increased steadily over the past 2 years. While their stress management techniques seem to be useful in mitigating stress, few Denver residents are able to recognize the feelings generated by stress before they come on.

  • Sixty-two percent of Denver residents believe that it is extremely or very important to manage stress, similar to the national average (61 percent).

  • Almost half of adults in Denver (48 percent) report doing an excellent or very good job at managing stress (compared to 35 percent of adults nationwide).

  • Compared to national averages, more adults in Denver believe they are doing enough to manage their stress (70 percent in Denver vs. 57 percent nationally).

  • Denver residents are more likely than Americans overall to exercise to manage stress (59 percent in Denver vs. 47 percent nationally).

  • About 58 percent of adults in Denver manage their stress by focusing on the positive. Fifty-one percent indicate that they avoid people or situations that cause them stress.

  • While Denver residents believe they are effective at using stress management techniques, many recognize the ways in which a psychologist can help. For example, Denver adults believe that a psychologist can help a great deal or a lot in coping with grief (57 percent) and managing relationship issues (51 percent). Forty-three percent of Denver residents believe that a psychologist can help a great deal/a lot with stress management.

  • For those who experience symptoms of stress, 64 percent of Denver residents become aware of their feelings and behaviors caused by stress while they are in the situation. Only 12 percent say they recognize the feelings or behaviors before the feelings come on or before engaging in the behavior.

Barriers to Change

The greatest barriers to change for Denver residents are time and willpower.

  • Denver residents indicate that they do not have enough willpower (27 percent) or enough time (27 percent) to make recommended or desired behavioral or lifestyle changes.

  • Most adults in Denver believe that willpower can be learned (77 percent), and they commonly define a lack of willpower as giving in to temptation (39 percent), not being motivated enough (28 percent) and not being disciplined to make changes (26 percent).

  • Denver residents believe that their willpower could improve if they had more confidence in the ability to make the behavior changes (42 percent) and if they cared more for their health (36 percent). Additionally, 41 percent of Denver residents believe that money would help them improve their willpower.


*This section of the report focuses only on the views of residents within the Denver Metropolitan Statistical Area (2009 n=202; 2010 n=206; 2011 n=279) and the general population (2009 n=1,568; 2010 n=1,134; 2011 n=1,226).