NPR News Series 'Stressed Out' Begins Today; Reporting Based On New Poll

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Poll from NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health

Poll Identifies Health Issues as Most Common Contributor to Stress

July 7, 2014; Washington, D.C. – What do Americans stress about most? Health, finances or politics? A new poll of the role that stress plays in various aspects of Americans' lives released today from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health finds that the public's relationship with stress overwhelmingly revolves around health problems, financial woes, personal responsibilities and politics and government news. The poll, which surveyed the frequency and causes of stress from a broad range of respondents, found that one in four Americans felt a great deal of stress in just the past month and that health-related issues stand out as both the most frequently mentioned cause (43%) and effect (74%) of stress.

NPR News explores the poll's findings in 'Stressed Out', a series beginning today and airing on NPR newsmagazines Morning Edition and All Things Considered (find local station schedules at On-air and online reports are also available at Join the conversation throughout the series with . Visit on Wednesday, July 9 at 12:30 PM (ET), to watch a live stream of a panel discussion on ways to ease the health burden caused by stress, moderated by NPR Health Editor Joe Neel at Harvard School of Public Health.

The poll surveyed 2,505 Americans on their experience with stress in the past month and year and their general attitudes about its role in their lives, including the nature of their relationship with stress management. The results capture stress as a beast with many faces, which can unite against the individual who fails to take a swing at that first experience. This domino effect often plagues people in poor health, who report multiple contributors, like financial problems (nearly 75%) and body-image issues (46%), to their stress levels at an alarming rate (80%). Conversely, people who apply certain methods of stress reduction report a nearly perfect rate of success for outdoor activities (94%) and time spent on a hobby (93%).

NPR's 'Stressed Out' series offers deeper context for notable patterns in the poll's findings and a more holistic understanding of stress in America. Among the reports:

The Evolution of Stress

  • Science correspondent Alix Spiegel provides a social history of how stress evolved into a negative part of American life, and how the tobacco industry helped conceptualize stress as unhealthy
  • Science correspondent Jon Hamilton reports on how news and politics raise people's stress levels
  • Science correspondent Shankar Vedantam traces the relationship between perceptions of control and stress management and identifies perhaps surprising havens from stress

Why Americans Stress: It's Complicated

  • Health Policy correspondent Patti Neighmond explores what exactly is going on in households with teenagers
  • Health reporter Laura Starecheski examines the lives of people who have to manage too much with too little
  • Youth Radio's Scott Lau examines how teenagers experience body-image stress as having both positive and negative effects

Physiology and Health Consequences

  • Medical correspondent Richard Harris explores the physiological changes that occur when normal stress turns toxic
  • Correspondent Allison Aubrey offers insight on how food can affect stress levels
  • Contributing correspondent Richard Knox connects the dots between stress and health
  • Contributing correspondent Michelle Trudeau explores the relationship between stress and sleep

The poll is part of an ongoing series of surveys conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health.

NPR is an award-winning, multimedia news organization that reaches 26 million radio listeners each week, and 23 million people monthly on digital platforms. In collaboration with more than 900 local radio stations nationwide, NPR strives to provide the public with a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures. To find local stations and broadcast times, visit

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