February 21, 2012

Stress is no laughing matter

Letter to the editor in response to the Washington Post coverage of the release of the “Stress in America” survey on too much stress.

I read with dismay your glib coverage of the release of my organization’s annual “Stress in America” survey [“Too much stress? See, that is what worries us... ,” Style, Jan. 12]. Reducing a serious health threat to a string of jokes does a great disservice to the millions of Americans whose stressful lives are adding to this country’s escalating rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and other chronic illnesses. The event we held at the Newseum provided consumers with useful information about the well-researched dangers of stress and how to reduce stress in their own lives — namely, by seeking integrated health care that treats the whole person and community-based organizations that offer programs to help people change health-threatening behaviors.

In addition, we touched on a growing but underreported problem in this country: the overwhelming stress experienced by caregivers, a population that is destined to swell as baby boomers age. Improving the public’s health and reining in our nation’s exploding health-care costs depend in part on Americans’ better recognition of the harmful effects of chronic stress on their health.

Norman B. Anderson, Washington
The writer is chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association.