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This Year's Election a Source of More Stress for Americans than 2016


According to a new survey provided by the American Psychological Association (APA), more than 68% of U.S. adults say the 2020 U.S. presidential election is a significant source of stress in their life. The APA offers advice on how to handle election stress.

According to a new survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA), more than 68% of U.S. adults say the 2020 U.S. presidential election is a significant source of stress in their life. This is a large increase from the 2016 presidential election when 52% felt the same.

The survey also found regardless of political affiliation, majorities say the election overall is a significant source of stress. This could be caused by a number of reasons such as the uncertainty of COVID-19, how healthcare has responded to the pandemic, issues of racial disparity and the continuous uncertainty among each unique candidate.

As healthcare issues continue to dominate the news, the survey found adults with a chronic condition are consistently more likely than those who do not have a chronic condition to report the election as a source of stress in their life (55% vs. 45% in 2016 and 71% vs. 64% in 2020). Although, in 2020, people with chronic conditions are significantly more likely to say the election is a very significant source of stress for them (39% vs. 28%). In 2016 this response yielded no significant difference (20% vs. 17%).

This year, 77% of Americans say the future of our nation is a significant source of stress, up from 66% in 2019. Likewise, the current political climate is reported as a significant source of stress by more than two-thirds of Americans (68%), compared with 62% who said the same in 2019.

“This has been a year unlike any other in living memory,” says Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer, in a release on their website. “Not only are we in the midst of a global pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans, but we are also facing increasing division and hostility in the presidential election. Add to that racial turmoil in our cities, the unsteady economy and climate change that has fueled widespread wildfires and other natural disasters. The result is an accumulation of stressors that are taking a physical and emotional toll on Americans.”

According to the APA, evidence-based tips to help people manage their stress related to the election are:

  • Uncertainty is stressful and some people are better at dealing with uncertainty than others, the site says. The election, the global pandemic and social unrest are all adding to a sense of uncertainty in our lives. Avoid dwelling on things you can’t control. When uncertainty strikes, many people immediately imagine worst-case scenarios. Break the habit of ruminating on bad outcomes.
  • Focus on what you can control. If following the news, watching the debates or scrolling through social media is causing you stress, limit your consumption of these platforms. Give yourself permission to take a break from the news.
  • Engage in meaningful activities. Rather than fixating on news coverage, find an activity that you really enjoy and spend time doing it. Get involved in issues that are meaningful to you.
  • Stay socially connected. Spend time with friends and family. People who have at least one or two friends or family members to turn to for emotional support during stressful times tend to cope better than people who don’t have such support.
  • Stay active. Moving helps us release the energy we experience when we feel stressed.
  • Realize that we might not know who won the election on Election Day. If you think this will raise your anxiety, keep busy with things that you enjoy and stay connected to social support so that you aren’t continually checking for what could be viewed as “bad” news.
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