Women under 50 are the most stressed out as holidays approach, with 61 percent saying their stress level is high or very high, according to the latest “Truth in Medicine” poll of New York metro area residents conducted by Mount Sinai Hospital.
Stress increases across the board during a holiday season, with 46 percent of those polled reporting high or very high levels of holiday-induced anxiety. During non-holiday periods, 31 percent overall rate their stress as very high (5 percent) or high (26 percent).
“Chronic and long-term stress can have an adverse effect on your health,” said Aaron E. Glatt, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine at Mt. Sinai South Nassau. Dr. Glatt noted that people under stress sometimes turn to overeating, smoking, and abusing alcohol or drugs, and urged people to be aware of what is causing stress and take steps to reduce it.
“Talk to your loved ones about ways to make the holidays more enjoyable and less stressful,” he added. “It can be as simple as asking other family members to contribute a dish to a family gathering so all the cooking doesn’t fall on one person.”
In addition to his position at Mt. Sinai South Nassau, Dr. Glatt is assistant rabbi at the Young Israel of Woodmere.
As for specific factors that cause the most stress, finances and family were the two top reasons chosen among all those polled, with 25 percent rating debt and financial concerns associated with the holidays as stress-inducing and 20 percent saying family issues raised their stress levels. But when asked to choose the top three (out of five) reasons for holiday stress, a plurality of respondents volunteered that all factors — finances, family, overscheduling, shopping, and overeating — cause stress.
Throughout the rest of the year, the workplace is the biggest source of stress in working people’s lives, while home life is less stressful for most area residents. Overall, a substantial 48 percent of respondents who work outside the home say their stress level in the workplace is high or very high. New York City dwellers rated their overall stress level higher than Long Islanders.
Women under the age of 50, especially those who work outside the home, feel the most stress during the holidays and at home, levels that impact their mental and physical health. While 61 percent of women under 50 use exercise and 54 percent turn to friends to relieve stress, a concerning one in five women under 50 use alcohol or drugs to relieve stress. Only 6 percent of area adults have sought counseling to help deal with stress, and only 9 percent more have even considered counseling. Among those who have not used counseling but have considered it, the key impediments are cost and time.
“Women seem to take the brunt of preparations during the holidays and it shows in the increased stress levels they are reporting,” said Adhi Sharma, MD, chief medical officer and executive vice president. “Everybody reacts to stress in different ways; however, stress can be dangerous when it impacts our daily life for long periods of time.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends managing stress by “balancing work, home and play” and “getting support from family and friends.”
Sixty percent of residents said stress impacts both their mental and physical health. While 56 percent of respondents said they used exercise to help relieve stress, 14 percent admitted to using alcohol or drugs.
Survey respondents also touted hobbies and religion as stress-relieving antidotes. Twenty-six percent of all respondents, 34 percent of Long Island respondents, and 33 percent of men under 50 use hobbies to relieve stress. As for religion, 19 percent of all respondents and 32 percent of women age 50+ turned to religion to relieve stress.
The American Psychological Association recommends managing expectations during the holidays to reduce stress, which will make you feel happier now and healthier in the long term. However, if you continue to feel overwhelmed, it is important to get help. Our experts recommend that talking through problems with a friend or family member can relieve an enormous amount of pressure on your mind and relieve stress on your body.
“At some point in our lives, everyone can use a little extra support in dealing with life’s challenges, especially around the holidays,” said Janet Kahn-Scolaro, LCSWR, PhD, Administrative Director of Behavioral Health and Family Medicine Services at Mount Sinai South Nassau. “When this is not enough, I cannot state enough the importance of speaking with a licensed professional who can help you understand your moods and behaviors and help you cope when life’s stresses become overwhelming.”
Retirement appears to alleviate a significant amount of stress. The least stressed demographic polled are respondents age 65+ who are retired or choose not to work. This was the only subgroup to not report an increase in stress as the holidays approach.
“It is my hope that this Truth in Medicine Poll serves as the reminder and inspiration to those under duress or those whose loved ones are stressed to take the advice of our doctors and behavioral health specialists to get help before the problem can get any worse,” said Richard J. Murphy, President and CEO of Mount Sinai South Nassau.
Poll results vary by race and other demographic indicators like whether or not residents live in the New York City or Long Island. As was the case with all women under 50 surveyed, both black men and women respondents in the same age group reported very high or high stress levels around the holidays.
“Bethpage is committed to working with Mount Sinai South Nassau on this important program that educates our community about the importance of managing stress and knowing when to seek help,” said Linda Armyn, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Bethpage
“If you begin to feel in a constant state of despair, I strongly urge people to immediately consult your physician or a mental health professional. Getting help is the courageous action to take, while trying to fight stress alone can be detrimental to your health,” concluded Dr. Sharma.
The Mount Sinai South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll, sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, is a quarterly survey of 600 Long Island and New York City residents that aims to gather data about attitudes on key public health topics and help spur public education to improve public health. The poll was conducted via both landlines and cell phones from November 6-11 of 600 residents in New York City and on Long Island.
The Truth in Medicine Poll was conducted as part of the hospital’s mission of improving education around critical public health issues. The poll was conducted by a nationally recognized independent polling firm, LJR Custom Strategies, which has offices in Washington and New Orleans. LJR has conducted more than 2,000 studies for a broad spectrum of health care, business, education, cultural, and political clients in almost every state in the country and around the world.
Mount Sinai South Nassau began conducting the public health poll in January 2017. This is Mount Sinai South Nassau’s third public health poll of 2019. Previous polls have focused on the human papilloma virus vaccine, the legalization of recreational marijuana, vaccines and supplements, antibiotic use and misuse, screen time, and others. For more information about the polls, please visit www.southnassau.org/sn/truth-in-medicine
The Long Island flagship hospital of the Mount Sinai Health System, Mount Sinai South Nassau Communities Hospital is designated a Magnet® hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for outstanding nursing care. Mount Sinai South Nassau is one of the region’s largest hospitals with 455 beds, more than 900 physicians and 3,500 employees. Located in Oceanside, New York, the hospital is an acute-care, not-for-profit teaching hospital that provides state-of-the-art care in cardiac, oncologic, orthopedic, bariatric, pain management, mental health and emergency medicine.