Introduction

People living in Los Angeles* have stress-related experiences that are similar to those of adults around the country. Stress in America™ survey results show that, while they think managing stress is important, adults in Los Angeles are not doing a great job at achieving stress management goals. However, they have more favorable ratings than Americans overall of the physical and mental health care they receive.


*This report focuses only on the views of residents within the Los Angeles MSA (2008 n=256; 2009 n=205; 2010 n=211; 2011 n=281; 2012 n=228) and the general population (2008 n=1791; 2009 n= 1568; 2010 n=1134; 2011 n=1226; 2012 n=2020).
Perceptions of stress and its sources

Sources of StressDespite reporting a lower average stress level this year, adults in Los Angeles are still experiencing stress levels that exceed what they believe is healthy, and for a significant proportion, stress is on the rise.

People living in Los Angeles report lower average stress levels compared to last year (5.0 vs. 5.3 on a 10-point scale, where 1 is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress”). Comparatively, Los Angeles residents believe that 3.7 is a healthy level of stress.

However, 37 percent of adults in Los Angeles report that their stress has increased in the past year, and 20 percent say they experience extreme stress (an 8, 9 or 10 on the 10-point scale).

Like elsewhere in the country, commonly reported sources of stress for Los Angeles residents are work (72 percent vs. 65 percent nationally), money (70 percent vs. 69 percent nationally) and the economy (64 percent vs. 61 percent nationally). However, concerns over health appear to be more apparent in Los Angeles: 61 percent of Los Angeles residents say personal health concerns are a significant source of stress compared to 51 percent of Americans overall.

Managing stress

People living in Los Angeles have a difficult time achieving healthy living goals related to stress management, and only a small percentage report being successful in their attempts to reduce their stress.

While the majority of people living in Los Angeles say that managing stress is important to them (67 percent), only about 41 percent think they are doing an excellent or very good job at it. Regardless, it appears that stress management is becoming important to more Los Angeles residents: Only 55 percent said that managing stress was extremely or very important in 2011.

Sixty-five percent of Los Angeles residents have tried to reduce their stress in the past five years. Of those, 36 percent say they have been successful.

The most commonly reported stress management techniques for people living in Los Angeles include listening to music (50 percent) and exercising or walking (48 percent). Unlike the rest of the country, however, Los Angeles residents are as likely to watch television for more than two hours per day (37 percent vs. 34 percent nationally) or play video games (37 percent vs. 29 percent nationally) as they are to read (37 percent vs. 40 percent nationally) to manage stress.

People living in Los Angeles are on par with Americans overall regarding psychologists and stress: 47 percent of Los Angeles residents and people nationwide believe psychologists can help a great deal or a lot with stress management. But, fewer people in Los Angeles think psychologists can help them make lifestyle or behavior changes (35 percent vs. 42 percent).

Stress and well-being

Compared to 2011, slightly more Los Angeles residents say that they are in good health, but like Americans overall, Los Angeles residents seem to fall short in reaching healthy living goals.

An increasing number of Los Angeles residents say their health is excellent or very good this year (39 percent in 2012, 35 percent in 2011 and 31 percent in 2010).

Similar to other Americans, Los Angeles residents struggle to achieve healthy lifestyles. In the past month, 38 percent say they have overeaten or eaten unhealthy foods and 29 percent report having skipped meals due to stress.

Despite the importance Los Angeles residents place on aspects of well-being, they struggle to meet healthy living goals, like others across the country:

  • Sixty-four percent say getting enough sleep is extremely or very important, yet just 28 percent say they are doing an excellent or very good job at it.
  • Sixty-four percent say that eating healthy is extremely or very important, yet just 33 percent say they do an excellent or very good job.
  • Sixty-two percent say being physically active or fit is extremely or very important, yet just 34 percent say they are doing an excellent or very good job.
Health, lifestyle and behavior change

Though many Americans struggle with a lack of willpower when trying to make healthy lifestyle and behavior changes, Los Angeles adults are more likely to cite costs associated with making such changes as a common barrier they face.

More Los Angeles residents who have decided to make a change or were recommended to make a change cite cost as a barrier this year (23 percent vs. 14 percent in 2011 say it is too expensive to make the change). The percentage saying the cost of making the change gets in the way of their success also exceeds the national average (23 percent vs. 16 percent).

Like others in the country, Los Angeles residents who have been recommended to or tried to make a change also report that a lack of willpower (30 percent) and a lack of time (24 percent) are obstacles to lifestyle and behavior change.

Helpfulness of Health Care ProvidersAdults in Los Angeles are more likely than Americans overall to give their physical and mental health care top grades, and are also more likely to say their health care provider can help them with various lifestyle or behavior issues.

Thirty-eight percent of Los Angeles residents give their physical health care an “A” grade and 42 percent say the same about their mental health care, compared to only 35 percent and 34 percent of Americans overall, respectively.

People in Los Angeles are more likely than Americans overall to say their health care providers can help them a great deal or a lot with lifestyle and behavior issues like stress management (34 percent vs. 24 percent), depression or anxiety (48 percent vs. 35 percent), weight management (39 percent vs. 30 percent), anger (26 percent vs. 17 percent) and lack of sleep (33 percent vs. 24 percent).

However, large gaps exist between the importance that Los Angeles residents place on conversations with their health care providers about mental health and stress and the frequency with which those discussions take place. Thirty-three percent of Los Angeles adults say it is extremely or very important to discuss their mental health with their health care providers and 35 percent say the same about stress management, but just 17 and 20 percent, respectively, say they have these discussions often or always.