Why Addressing Stress is the Foundation for Better Health
When it comes to improving population stress levels, there’s one movement that really gives us hope: We can empower individuals with information, tools, and insights to take better control of their stress, and improve their overall health and wellbeing.
It’s also why every April, Stress Awareness Month aims to spur a national conversation on the prevalence of stress and spread the word on strategies to help cope.
The impacts of chronic stress
Too much stress is cause for concern because it’s a foundational element of health, like sleep, nutrition, or physical activity, that overlaps with and affects so many other areas of life. Folks with high stress often have trouble sleeping and sticking to their healthy eating or physical activity habits, behaviors that help mitigate stress for many.
Nearly half the population reports physical fatigue as a result of their stress – an increase of 38 percent since 2019. And more than 40 percent of adults report that stress has caused them to lie awake in the past month.
The impacts of a stressed-out population have reached the doctor’s office as well. Healthcare providers report that upward of 80 percent of all primary care visits have a stress-related component.
The high cost of unmanaged stress
Everyone experiences stress, but not every stressful situation is cause for concern. Stress that is manageable — say an impending work deadline — can even increase alertness and performance! However, unmanaged, prolonged stress can take a physical toll on the body. Chronic stress is linked to all six leading causes of death, and a 43% increased risk of premature death is associated with high levels of long-term stress.
Beyond physical health, the bigger picture impact of stress is being felt in the workplace and at the population level. According to a report from the American Psychological Association, 3 in 5 employees report negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy. And this can lead to accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, and direct medical, legal, and insurance costs that add up to $300 billion every year.
Unmanaged stress can have frightening effects. But it doesn’t have to.
The high rewards of managing stress
Just as uncontrolled stress can negatively affect other areas of health, the inverse is – thankfully – also true. Stress can be effectively managed, and it can also be improved over time with practice and regular feedback.
Coping strategies like regular mindfulness sessions have been shown to reduce acute and chronic stress, and simply understanding what causes stress can help pinpoint triggers and help people make adjustments or apply a stress management behavior, such as walking or deep breathing.
Focusing resources on population-wide stress management solutions has far-reaching benefits – from better relationships and better sleep to improved immune response and weight control – which in turn adds up to healthier, more productive people and lower related healthcare costs.
6 ways wearable technology supports stress management
Today’s wearable technology plays a critical role in the effort to transform the silent epidemic into something far more manageable – even on a population scale. That’s because wearables help people pull back the curtain on their personal stress patterns, both in the moment and over time, and provide them with the actionable guidance they need to jump-start healthier habits.
A wearable device, like Fitbit, that tracks indicators of stress can help users understand patterns and identify triggers, such as what’s contributing to stress or the time of day stress normally occurs.
Here are a few examples* of how Fitbit devices can help your population track, understand, and manage their stress:
- Identify signs of stress with mindfulness sessions using the EDA Scan app
- All-day body response tracking with cEDA (continuous electrodermal activity)1
- See how they’re handling stress with Stress Management Score
- Establish and meet mindfulness goals
- Gain emotional awareness with mood tracking
- Track how food, caffeine, sleep, and physical activity impact stress levels
The importance of personalized guidance
While data is great, not everyone is a numbers expert. To better understand stress, users need context to help them pinpoint areas to focus on improving. Personalized guidance and context that provides ideal ranges for each metric and a clear picture as to where they fall within that range helps to transform the data from mere numbers to actionable insights.
Individual stress support that improves population wellbeing at scale
Awareness around the impacts of stress need not be limited to a single month. At Fitbit Health Solutions, we believe its influence (negative or positive) on holistic wellbeing can’t be understated. That’s why it’s so important for people to have access to personalized health data and recommendations in order to drive meaningful behavior change.
When people have the right information day in and day out about their stress levels, they can see what is and isn’t working for them – and can take steps to improve their physical health and mental wellbeing over time. But it all starts with having access to personalized insights they need to build better habits and routines around stress management.
Interested in learning more about the impact of sleep and stress on population health? Take a deeper look at how these two foundational health metrics are interconnected, and find out 7 ways wearable tech can uncover patterns that promote holistic behavior change. Read now.
1Fitbit’s all-day body-response tracking feature is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, mitigate or manage any disease or condition. Please contact your healthcare professional for questions about your health. Available on select devices.
*Feature availability dependent on device model. Some features and benefits may require a Premium membership, included with Fitbit Care.