Significant numbers of Americans, and therefore employees, are stressing about their financial situation at a level deemed “too high” by the American Psychological Association.

Stress levels, perhaps predictably, are higher at households with less than $50,000 in income, than those at higher levels. Also, stress levels are higher among the “younger generations” as well as parents.

Of particular concern to authors of the study, Stress in America: Paying With Our Health,is that “stress related to financial issues could have a significant impact on Americans' health and well-being," said Norman B. Anderson, PhD, CEO and executive vice president at the APA.

Also see: 3 ways employee financial stress affects your company

According to the report, many people are putting their health care needs on hold because of financial concerns. Specifically, about 20% of the 3,068 adults polled say that they have either considered skipping (9%) or have skipped (12%) going to the doctor when they needed health care because of financial concerns.

Stress has social repercussions: “Almost a third of adults with partners (31%) report that money is a major source of conflict in their relationship,” according to the report.

Money worries have been at the top of the list of stressors since APA started the poll in 2007, suggesting the economy hasn’t improved enough since the great recession to unseat financial stress from the list of Americans’ concerns.

Income gap’s impact

According to the APA, “a gap also appears to be emerging in stress levels between people living in lower-income (making less than $50,000 per year) and higher-income households that mirrors the growing wealth gap nationwide.”

That’s a big change from 2007, when there was no difference in reported average stress levels between those who earned more and those who earned less than $50,000, with both groups reporting the same average levels of stress (6.2 on a 10-point scale).

By 2014, a clear gap had emerged with those living in lower-income households reporting higher overall stress levels than those living in higher-income households (5.2 vs. 4.7 on the 10-point scale).

As those numbers suggest, however, overall stress levels have begun to ease somewhat. Specifically, the average reported stress level is 4.9 on a 10-point scale, down from 6.2 in 2007.

Also see: Poor money management at root of most financial stress

Even so, “it appears that Americans are living with stress levels higher than what we believe to be healthy — 3.7 on a 10-point scale — and some (22%) say they are not doing enough to manage their stress,” according to the report.

“All Americans, and particularly those groups that are most affected by stress — which include women, younger adults and those with lower incomes — need to address this issue sooner than later in order to better their health and well-being," the report says.

Richard Stolz is a freelance writer based in Rockville, Md.

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