Time Pressures, Stress Common for Americans

by Joseph Carroll

Nearly half do not have enough spare time, 40% are frequently stressed

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's annual Lifestyle poll finds Americans about equally likely to say they do not have enough time to do what they want these days as to say they do. Most Americans sometimes experience stress in the daily lives, including 4 in 10 who say they encounter it frequently. Parents of younger children, working Americans, and younger Americans are most likely to report enduring time pressures and stress.

Time and Stress Management

The Dec. 6-9, 2007 poll finds 53% of Americans saying they generally have enough time to do what they want to do these days, while 47% say they do not. Gallup first asked this question in 1990, and has asked it annually since 2001. The current results are right in line with what Gallup has found most years. In the 2004 survey, Americans were somewhat more optimistic about their spare time, with 56% saying they had enough time and 44% saying they did not.

Most Americans also say they experience stress in their daily life -- 40% deal with stress frequently and 36% sometimes do. The percentage of Americans who experience stress in their life has been relatively stable. So has the percentage who frequently experience stress, which, apart from an abnormally low 33% reading in 2003, has been consistently around 40%.

Lack of time and stress go hand in hand, as evidenced by the data: 54% of Americans who do not have enough spare time these days say they frequently experience stress. This is twice the percentage of those who have sufficient time to attend to their matters.

Who's Feeling the Pressure?

Some groups of Americans experience more time strains and stress than other groups do. These groups include parents of young children, working adults, and younger Americans.

Only 38% of parents with younger children say they have enough time to do what they want to do these days, while 62% do not have enough time. These results are the opposite for those without young children -- 62% have enough time to do what they want and 38% do not. Nearly half of parents, 49%, frequently encounter stress in their lives, while only 34% of non-parents feel stress often.

Only 40% of working Americans say they have enough time in their daily lives, compared with an overwhelming 72% of non-working Americans. Employed adults are also more likely to experience stress frequently than those who are not employed, by a 45% to 32% margin.

Time pressures may ease as people get older, which could be because many older Americans are retired. The vast majority of adults aged 55 and older (72%) say they have enough time to do what they want, and only 27% frequently endure stress in their life. By comparison, roughly 4 in 10 Americans who are younger than age 55 say they have enough spare time, and just less than half frequently experience stress.

Men and women tend to agree about their time and stress problems -- a slim majority of men and women say they have enough time to do what they want to do these days, and roughly 4 in 10 say the frequently encounter stress in their daily lives.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,027 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 6-9, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
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