Gallup: Worry and Stress Decline With Age

Stress begins to drop off significantly after Americans reach their mid 50s

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You might think that Americans on the cusp of retirement would be stressed right now. But most people report significantly less worry and stress as they get older, particularly after age 65. Well over a third of Americans in their 20s, 30s, and 40s say they experienced worry "a lot of the day yesterday." This figure plummets to about 23 percent among those in their late 60s and further drops to 15 percent after age 91, according to a new analysis of 650,000 Gallup telephone interviews conducted in 2008 and 2009.

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Stress also begins to drop off significantly as Americans reach their mid 50s. While almost half of those in their early 20s (48 percent) reported experiencing a lot of stress the day prior to the interview, the amount experiencing stress declined to 23 percent in the late 60s and 13 percent among those 91 and older. Women of every age were significantly more likely than men to report feeling stressed. Females were generally 5 to 10 percentage points more likely to worry among every age group until the 80s when the gap between men and women narrowed.

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There are several logical reasons that older Americans have fewer worries. Older people are less likely to have children under age 18 in the home who need care and are much more likely to be retired from workplace stressors. But the Gallup study found that neither of these explanations is correct. Among Americans without children, younger people still experience more worry than older people. And younger parents experience more stress than older parents. In fact, young adults without children worried and stressed more than older adults caring for children.

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Retirement doesn’t account for the drop off in stress at older ages either. Americans of all ages who are employed worry less and have less stress than Americans who are not employed. When considering only employed Americans, the amount experiencing stress was highest among workers in their late 20s (47 percent) and steadily declined as people aged until bottoming out at 15 percent in the late 80s.

Tell us, why do older Americans experience less stress than younger people?