The report comes out during an acrimonious campaign season, the final weeks of which have been marked by violence. Last week, pipe bombs were mailed to prominent Democratic officials and donors, as well as to CNN. And on Saturday, a man apparently obsessed with the migrant caravan heading toward the southern border of the United States, which President Trump has painted as a grave threat to national security, massacred 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, authorities say.
“The environment is very toxic,” Arthur C. Evans, the CEO of the American Psychological Association, said in an interview with The Washington Post.
He added that concern about the state of the country cut across party lines.
“A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents see it that way,” Evans said. “People don’t believe current political environment is getting better and may in fact be getting worse."
While respondents weren’t asked specifically about Trump, Evans said, unpredictability and uncertainty magnify stress. “We have a leader who is not predictable and who does create a certain amount of uncertainty and stress for people,” he observed.
At the same time, Americans are overwhelmingly hopeful about their own futures, the data reveals, even as they fear for the country.
The American Psychological Association focused this year on Generation Z, people ages 15 to 21. Though only Americans 18 and older were surveyed, additional interviews were conducted with members of this age cohort to ascertain what was troubling young people. The results show that the country’s youngest adults are the most likely of all generations to report poor mental health, while also more likely to seek out professional help for psychological difficulties.
Teenagers and young adults are worried about high-profile issues that have dominated national headlines, such as gun violence and sexual assault. Seventy-five percent of this age cohort said mass shootings were a significant source of stress, with 72 percent being afraid specifically of school shootings. Only slightly fewer millennials had similar feelings.
The survey revealed a notable difference between young and old Americans when it came to stress about sexual harassment and assault. More than half of those surveyed in Generation Z said reports about sexual misconduct were a significant source of stress. Just 39 percent of adults shared this sentiment.
While young Americans report high stress levels related to the national political climate, they are the least likely to vote. Just over half of those age 18 to 21 said they planned to vote in the November elections, markedly below the 70 percent average across all generations.
Evans said stress can have a range of physical and psychological manifestations — stomach aches, headaches, sleeplessness — and, if unmitigated, it can result in obesity, depression and cardiovascular problems.