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A Stressful Economy

By Stephanie Milam

Our struggling economy has cost many American adults their homes, their jobs, and potentially even their health. As chronic diseases like cancer and heart failure continue to top the list of major health problems in the US, stress has proven to be a source and contributor to many of these diseases. Three years into the recession, stress levels have increased amongst adults, and especially amongst women.

While men and women have suffered in various ways from the recession, women have felt it more through stress. Studies have shown that women are more prone to stress than men, and as such, are more susceptible to its effects. Every aspect of their lives – children, health, education – can increase stress levels, but the two largest causes of stress for women are none other than time and money. Time and money cause stress when there isn’t enough of either: enough time to get everything done, from driving kids to activities, providing dinner, and getting a good night’s sleep; or enough money to provide for the family and their future.

The uncertainty of where the country’s economy is headed, especially with the looming threat of a double-dip recession, has caused stress for women of all ages, lifestyles, and backgrounds. From retirement, to home ownership, to groceries, to student loans, financing their lives has become an extremely difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible endeavor. Such insecurity has created very high and unabated levels of stress amongst women which in turn can cause a slew of serious health ailments… which can lead to even more financial pressures.

Serious mental health issues that can be caused or enabled by stress include: depression, insomnia, and self-medication with over-the-counter pills, overeating, and alcohol. Stress also increases the risk of heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and cancer.

But there is a bright side – the comfort and support of family can help alleviate stress. With the current state of the country, people are cautious to make big changes in their lives, causing people to stay close to home. In professional and personal experiences I’ve had over the past few years, I’ve learned that many families are sticking together and moving in with one another as a way to save money and support each other. With the deteriorated housing market and an unclear end in sight for the economy, multiple generations are living under the same roof. And while providing for the family can be a serious daily challenge, the cohabitation and family closeness can be a stress relief for women feeling significant financial pressure.