Who's stressed out?

Dr. Bart Pillen
Dr. Bart Pillen

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many of us don't need to be told we're more stressed than ever, but now, scientists have the data to prove it.

If the 80's seemed like a simpler time, you're right. Life's more connected and convenient now, but a 30 year study proves we're wired, tired, and maxed out.

"We have all these communication devices and yet, it's the face-to-face contact, especially social support, that buffers from the ill effects of stress," explains Dr. Bart Pillen, clinical psychologist at Kapiolani Women and Children's Medical Center.

Research conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology finds women are more stressed than men, people with lower incomes and less education live with more pressure, and minorities generally reported higher stress. Also, as we age, stress decreases.

The study's author says, 40 year olds, for instance, have less stress than 30 year olds, and a 30 year old, in turn, has less stress than a 20 year old - which caught our newsroom by surprise.

"Some of the younger generations, in their 20's, late teens, 20's and even into their 30's, are struggling to really establish themselves, and it's more than just in a career. It's in their life patterns," says Dr. Pillen.

He adds that younger people don't have the life skills yet to deal with tricky situations. Researchers also found stress didn't increase that much after the 2008 economic downturn, except among middle-aged, college-educated, white men who worked full-time. Dr. Pillen says, "People who have been well-established in a career, especially white males, tend to put all their eggs in that basket."

While it's not so easy to turn off, tune out, and drop away these days, the doctor's advice for stress management includes the obvious: eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep - but also, rely on a social network of family and friends, and cultivate optimism by being mindful and practicing positive thinking during the rough times.

This study - done in 1983, 2006, and 2009 - is considered the first-ever, historical comparison of stress levels nationwide. More than 6,300 people participated.

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