Stress in Atlanta

Despite reporting financial-related stress again this year, residents of Atlanta* report lower stress levels than in recent years. However, the percentage of Atlantans reporting a diagnosis of depression has doubled in the past year. In general, Atlanta residents report more problems with their physical and mental health than last year and are increasingly concerned with the cost of housing.

Perception of Stress and Its Sources

In 2010, fewer Atlanta residents report having high levels of stress compared to last year, and fewer perceive their stress levels as having increased over the past year. Overall, Atlanta residents report that their symptoms of stress have decreased over the past two years.

  • Atlanta residents continue to report an average stress level of 5.8 (on a 10-point scale), about the same as last year. However, this level exceeds the level of stress that Atlantans consider healthy (3.8). 

  • Just 27 percent of Atlanta residents now report having a “great deal” of stress (an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale), down from 37 percent last year. 

  • While the percentage of Atlanta residents reporting that their stress levels have increased over the past year remains high, fewer residents report that their stress levels have increased over the past year (36 percent) than in 2009 (44 percent). 

  • Housing costs are a source of stress for more Atlanta residents compared to last year (48 percent in 2010 compared with 36 percent in 2009). 

  • Money (80 percent), the economy (71 percent) and work (70 percent) remain the most commonly reported sources of stress for Atlanta residents this year, but significantly more Atlantans say that money is a source of stress this year compared with last year (70 percent cited money as a source of stress in 2009).

Employment and Stress

Overall, the percentage of employed Atlantans reporting job-related stress and job satisfaction remained the same as in 2009. However, fewer residents reported being satisfied with how employers help them to balance work and non-work demands this year.

  • Four in 10 Atlantans (38 percent) say that during a workday they typically feel tense or stressed out (compared with 40 percent who said this in 2009). 

  • More than two-thirds of Atlanta residents (67 percent) say they are satisfied with their jobs (similarly 66 percent said this in 2009). 

  • More than half of Atlanta residents (51 percent) report that job stability is a significant source of stress (compared with 45 percent who said this in 2009). 

  • Just a third of Atlanta workers (33 percent) say they are satisfied with the way their employer helps them balance work and non-work demands, down from 48 percent last year. 

  • Thirty-two percent of employed residents said they were satisfied with work-related growth and development opportunities this year, down from 43 percent last year.

Stress and Well-Being

Though the percentage of Atlanta residents experiencing a “great deal” of stress has decreased, the percentage of residents reporting that a health care provider diagnosed them with depression has doubled. Other health conditions have also been reported in higher numbers than previous years.

  • In 2009, 10 percent of Atlanta residents reported being told they were depressed by a health care provider in the past five years; that figure rose to 20 percent this year. 

  • Those in Atlanta who were told by a health care provider that they have an anxiety disorder increased from seven percent in 2009 to 10 percent in 2010. 

  • Consistent with these data, fewer Atlantans in 2009 view themselves as healthy. The percentage of Atlantans who reported their health as excellent or very good decreased from 42 percent in 2009 to 34 percent in 2010. In 2009, the percentage of Atlantans reporting that they were doing enough to manage their stress rose from the previous year. But in 2010, a significant number of Atlantans reported gaps between the importance they place on managing stress and their ability to be successful in this area. 

  • More than half of Atlanta residents (55 percent) said they are doing enough to manage their stress this year, compared with 62 percent last year. 

  • There is a gap between what aspects of well-being adults in Atlanta find important and how well they are doing at achieving those goals. The biggest gaps between importance and achievement were for managing stress (70 percent feel this is extremely/very important and 40 percent say they are doing an excellent/very good job), eating healthy (60 percent feel this is important and 31 percent say they are successful) and getting enough sleep (67 percent feel this is important and 41 percent say they are successful). However, Atlanta residents were more likely than Americans overall to say they were doing an excellent or very good job in getting enough sleep (41 percent vs. 29 percent).

Barriers to Change

There are major barriers for Atlanta residents to overcome when attempting to alter their behaviors to lead a healthier life. Lack of willpower remained one of the most frequently cited barriers for Atlanta residents.

  • Of those in Atlanta who have received a lifestyle or behavior change recommendation from a health care provider, nearly one-third reported that willpower prevented them from making the changes recommended (compared with 30 percent who said this in 2009).

  • Although 73 percent of Atlantans feel willpower can be learned, they identified specific barriers preventing them from improving their willpower. Specifically, they said that having enough confidence (60 percent), more energy (49 percent), more time (46 percent) and more money (34 percent) would help them improve their willpower. Nearly half said they could improve their willpower if they cared more about their own health (46 percent). 

  • The percentage of Atlanta residents saying it was too expensive for them to make the lifestyle and behavior changes recommended by their health care provider climbed significantly, rising to 21 percent in 2010 from 13 percent in 2009.

Stress on the Road

When asked how much impact traffic has on daily stress levels, the vast majority of Atlanta residents agree that traffic has some impact (70 percent). One in 10 Atlantans say that traffic has a lot or a great deal of impact on their day-to-day stress levels (10 percent).

*This section of the report focuses only on the views of residents within the Atlanta MSA (2008 n=243; 2009 n=201; 2010 n=213) and the general population (2008 n=1,791; 2009 n=1,568; 2010 n=1,134).