Introduction

The latest Stress in America™ survey shows that more adults in Seattle* have succeeded in efforts to reduce their stress, but many still struggle to reach overall healthy living goals. However, while their average reported stress level has decreased and fewer say they experience extreme stress (an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale, where 1 is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress”), the average stress level in Seattle exceeds what adults living there say is healthy.


* This report focuses only on the views of residents within the Seattle Metropolitan Statistical Area (2008 n=259; 2009 n=200; 2010 n=214; 2011 n=224; 2012 n=210) 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

In Seattle, like elsewhere in the country, the average reported stress level has declined, as has the number of residents citing concerns about money and relationships as sources of stress. Regardless, the level of stress Seattle adults experience is higher than what they believe to be healthy.

Since 2008, people living in Seattle have consistently reported declining average stress levels each year. In 2012, the average stress level was 4.7 on a 10-point scale (2008: 6.1; 2009: 5.4; 2010: 5.1; and 2011: 5.0).

In addition, fewer Seattle adults this year report experiencing extreme stress (2012: 13 percent; 2011: 17 percent). However, Seattle residents are still experiencing more stress than what they believe is healthy — which is 3.4 on a 10-point scale.

Fewer Seattle residents are reporting common stressors as significant sources of stress this year, including work (65 percent in 2012 vs. 73 percent in 2011), money (63 percent in 2012 vs. 70 percent in 2011), the economy (57 percent in 2012 vs. 66 percent in 2011) and relationships (45 percent in 2012 vs. 53 percent in 2011).

Managing stress

People living in Seattle are slightly more likely to say they are doing enough to manage stress than other Americans, but they still have difficulty achieving stress management goals.

Sixty-five percent of Seattle adults say they are doing enough to manage their stress, compared to 61 percent of Americans overall.

Reducing StressAt the same time, many Seattle residents still struggle to reach stress management goals. Sixty-eight percent report that managing stress is extremely or very important, but only 43 percent say they are doing an excellent or very good job at it.

Over the past five years, more than half of Seattle residents (62 percent) have tried to reduce their stress. Those who decided to make this change were more likely to report experiencing success in their efforts than last year (42 percent in 2012 vs. 28 percent in 2011).

The most commonly reported stress management techniques for people living in Seattle include exercising or walking (57 percent), listening to music (47 percent) and reading (44 percent).

Nearly half of Seattle residents say that psychologists can help a great deal or a lot with stress management (49 percent). Overall, adults in Seattle are slightly more likely than people nationwide to say that they have been referred to a mental health provider (16 percent vs. 12 percent).

Stress and well-being

Despite giving their health a fairly high rating, more people living in Seattle are reporting symptoms of stress this year. They also report challenges achieving healthy living goals and some are engaging in unhealthy behaviors due to stress.

Almost half (45 percent) of Seattle adults say they are in excellent or very good health, but many report experiencing symptoms of stress.

More Seattle residents this year say they have experienced fatigue (39 percent in 2012 vs. 31 percent in 2011) and feeling overwhelmed (44 percent in 2012 vs. 38 percent in 2011) due to stress. In fact, adults in Seattle are more likely to feel overwhelmed because of stress than people across the country (44 percent vs. 35 percent).

Similar to other Americans, Seattle residents struggle to achieve healthy lifestyles. In the past month, 39 percent say they have lain awake at night vs. 42 percent nationally. Thirty-four percent say they have overeaten or eaten unhealthy foods vs. 36 percent nationally, and 25 percent report having skipped meals due to stress vs. 27 percent nationally.

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

  • Sixty-eight percent say getting enough sleep is extremely or very important, while only 43 percent say they are doing an excellent or very good job at it.
  • Sixty-two percent say that eating healthy is extremely or very important, while only 40 percent say they are doing an excellent or very good job.
  • Sixty-two percent say being physically active or fit is extremely or very important, yet just 36 percent say they are doing an excellent or very good job.
Health, lifestyle and behavior change

A lack of willpower is a barrier to change for more Seattle residents this year than in previous years, while the percentage citing lack of time as a challenge has declined.

Seattle residents who have tried to or who have been recommended to make a lifestyle or behavior change in the last year again cite a lack of willpower as an obstacle preventing their success (36 percent in 2012 vs. 35 percent in 2011, which is up from 29 percent in 2010).

In contrast, the percentage of Seattle residents who have tried to or who have been recommended to make a lifestyle or behavior change who cite a lack of time as a barrier to making changes has decreased (24 percent in 2012 vs. 29 percent in 2011).

Conversations with Health Care ProviderWhile adults in Seattle are more likely than the general population to give their physical health care high marks, they rate their mental health care lower. But Seattle residents, on average, communicate more with their health care providers about lifestyle and behavior issues than Americans overall.

In Seattle, almost half of adults (47 percent) give their physical health care an “A” grade, compared to 35 percent of adults nationwide. Only 36 percent of Seattle residents say the same about their mental health care.

Seattle residents appear to value conversations with their health care provider about lifestyle and behavior issues more than Americans overall. Fifty-four percent of people in Seattle say it is extremely or very important to discuss healthy behavior or lifestyle changes (compared to 42 percent nationally). Forty-four percent say the same about discussions regarding mental health and 38 percent say discussions about managing stress are extremely or very important (compared to 32 percent nationally for both).

Seattle residents are more likely than other Americans to say these discussions happen often or always. Forty percent talk often or always about healthy behavior or lifestyle changes, compared to 28 percent of all Americans. Twenty-seven percent of adults in Seattle say the same about discussions about mental health, and 25 percent discuss how to manage stress often or always (compared to 17 percent nationally for both).