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MSSN Poll: Holidays bring on most stress for women under 50

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If the holiday season approaches, but you’re not feeling very holly-jolly, you’re not alone. Forty-six percent of New York metro area residents have high or very high levels of holiday-induced stress, according to a new “Truth in Medicine” poll conducted by Mount Sinai South Nassau. By comparison, only 31 percent are very highly or highly stressed during non-holiday periods.

The poll also found that women under 50 are most stressed around the holidays, with 61 percent reporting their stress levels as high or very high.

“In addition to the positive things around the holidays, there’s challenges people have to face,” said Dr. Adhi Sharma, the chief medical officer and executive vice president of South Nassau. “We just want to make sure everyone is aware of this.”

So, what’s causing anxiety during this so-called “most wonderful time of the year”?” When asked to choose the top 3 (out of 5) reasons for holiday stress, a many respondents said all factors — finances, family, over scheduling, shopping and overeating — cause stress. Financial concerns and family topped the list.

Sixty percent of residents said stress impacts both their mental and physical health. While 56 percent of respondents said they used exercise to help relieve stress, 14 percent admitted to using alcohol or drugs.

“Chronic and long-term stress can have an adverse effect on your health,” said Dr. Aaron E. Glatt, chairman of the Department of Medicine. Glatt noted that specially around the holidays, people sometimes turn to overeating, smoking and abusing alcohol or drugs and cautioned residents to be aware of what is causing stress and take steps to reduce it.

“Talk to your loved ones about ways to make the holidays more enjoyable and less stressful,” he added. “It can be as simple as asking other family members to contribute a dish to a family gathering so all the cooking doesn’t fall on one person.”

Survey respondents also touted hobbies and religion as stress-relieving antidotes. According to the poll, 26 percent of all respondents, 34 percent of Long Island respondents, and 33 percent of men under 50 use hobbies to relieve stress. As for religion, 19 percent of the respondents and 32 percent of women age 50 and older, used their faith as a stress reliever.

The American Psychological Association recommends managing expectations during the holidays to manage stress and improve your health, thus reducing your stress level to make you feel better now and in the long-term. However, if you continue to feel overwhelmed, it is important that you get help. Experts recommend that talking through problems with a friend or family member can relieve an enormous amount of pressure on the mind and body.

Not working or retirement appears to alleviate a significant amount of stress. The least stressed demographic polled are respondents 65 and older who are the only subgroup to not report an increase in stress as the holidays approach.

“It is my hope that this Truth in Medicine Poll serves as the reminder and inspiration to those under duress or those whose loved ones are showing their stress to take the advice of our doctors and behavioral health specialists to get help before the problem can get any worse,” South Nassau President and CEO Richard J. Murphy said.

Poll results vary by race and other demographic indicators like whether residents live in the New York City or Long Island. As was the case with all women 50 and under surveyed, both black men and women respondents in the same age group reported very high or high stress levels around the holidays.

“We thought with the holidays coming up, it might be good to see what stresses people out,” said Joe Calderone, South Nassau’s vice president of corporate communications and development.

Dana Sanneman, the hospital’s executive director of public affairs, said the poll was conducted before the holidays in order to show respondents that there are many ways to deal with stress. Sharma suggested many ways to deal with stress.

“Some things people can do at home are meditation, yoga, relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, or reading a book, music, picking up a hobby,” Sharma said. “It’s not as complicated as people think it is.”

The Mount Sinai South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll, sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, is a quarterly survey of 600 Long Island and New York City residents that aims to gather data about attitudes on key public health topics and help spur public education to improve public health. The poll was conducted via landlines and cell phones from Nov 6 to 11 and was a compilation of responses from 600 residents in New York City and on Long Island.

The poll was conducted as part of the hospital’s mission of improving education around critical public health issues. The poll was conducted by a nationally recognized, independent polling firm, LJR Custom Strategies, which has offices in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans. LJR has conducted more than 2,000 studies for a broad spectrum of health care, business, education, cultural, and political clients in almost every state in the country and around the world.