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In Southeastern PA More than One-Third of Adults Have Experienced High Stress

Date: December 6 2012

PHILADELPHIA— The holiday season can bring with it joy, relaxation, and oftentimes stress. Using data from the 2010 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey, researchers at Public Health Management Corporation’s (PHMC) Community Health Data Base (CHDB), which develops the survey,  provide a closer look at the experience of stress among residents of Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA).*

Findings from the 2010 survey reveal that more than one-third of adults aged 18 and older in our region (37.6%) have experienced high levels of stress within the past year, representing an estimated 1,112,700 adults in the region.

While the holiday season lasts just a few weeks out of the year, the effects of stress may be longer lasting. Increasing evidence suggests that ongoing stress has negative effects on health and can raise the risk for certain chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease and stroke.

Stress and Population Groups in Southeastern Pennsylvania

• In Southeastern Pennsylvania, women (41.3%) are more likely than men (33.3%) to have high levels of stress.
• More than four in 10 Latino adults (42.3%) have high levels of stress compared with 37.7% of black adults, 37.3% of white adults, and 33.3% of Asian adults.
• Nearly one-half of adults living below 150% of the Federal Poverty Level (46.6%) have high stress levels compared with 35.5% of adults living at or above that poverty level.**

Stress, Health and Health Behaviors in Southeastern Pennsylvania

• More than one-half of adults who are in fair or poor health (54.2%) have high stress levels compared with more than one-third of adults in excellent, very good or good health (34.4%).
• Nearly two-thirds of adults who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition (63.5%) have high stress levels compared with one-third of adults (33.1%) without a mental health condition.
• Just over one-half of adults who smoke cigarettes (50.9%) have high levels of stress compared with more than one-third of adults (34.2%) who do not smoke cigarettes.
• Over two-fifths of adults who exercise less than three days per week (40.4%) have high levels of stress compared with 35.8% of adults who exercise three or more days a week.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey collects information about stress levels as well as many critical health topics, using a random landline and cell phone telephone survey conducted with 10,000 households in the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania region of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties.

For more information about these findings, please contact Nicole Dreisbach at
* Survey respondents were asked to rate their level of stress on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 signifying no stress and 10 signifying extreme stress. For this analysis, responses of 7 or higher are categorized as high levels of stress.
** Poverty level is calculated based on family size and income. For example, a family of four with an annual income of less than $33,075 in 2009 was considered living below 150% of the Federal Poverty Level.
About CHDB
Public Health Management Corporation’s Community Health Data Base Household Health Survey is one of the largest regional health surveys in the country. The Pew Charitable Trusts, William Penn Foundation, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, United Way of North Penn, CIGNA Foundation, Green Tree Community Health Foundation, North Penn Community Health Foundation, Thomas Scattergood Foundation and over 350 local agencies from the health, government, nonprofit and academic sectors help to support CHDB. To view previous data news releases, please click here. For more information, or to access key findings from previous years, please visit
About PHMC
Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) is a nonprofit public health institute that creates and sustains healthier communities. PHMC uses best practices to improve community health through direct service, partnership, innovation, policy, research, technical assistance and a prepared workforce.  PHMC has served the region since 1972. For more information on PHMC, visit

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