Why is modern society defined by ever rising levels of stress?
Back in the sixties and seventies, people dreamt of a time when they could kick back and relax more because modern technology was finally there to help with tiresome tasks like cleaning the house. People dreamed of wonderful inventions that made life easier and essentially, happier.
Fast forward to the era of the eBay, iPhones and TV sets that could connect to the Internet in a heartbeat.
The present generation has experienced more advanced technology than all of the previous decades combined. Thanks to globalized trade and endless technological innovations, we can now enjoy the Internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Any ordinary laptop or PC that was assembled around the year 2012 would be at least 1,000,000 times more efficient at calculations than the computer that launched the Apollo rocket to the moon.
We are literally living the dream.
So the big question now is: why are we still stressed? Or more importantly: why are we even more stressed than our predecessors?
Sociologists, psychologists and even modern day economists have all tried to determine at which juncture our era has become completely and almost inextricably associated with stress.
The studies that tackle the “stress puzzle” are complex in their entirety. However, I have taken the liberty of summarizing the most important findings for everyone’s benefit.
The Roots of Stress
1. Less Leisure Time – Many people often associate stress with having to deal with childcare and taking care of the household.
However, if we were to compare the amount of time that people spend taking care of their homes and families now with the amount of time spent doing the same things back in the 1910’s, we would arrive at the same average number of hours per week: 52 hours.
The reason for this is that we are now spending more time on additional activities such as grocery shopping and people don’t usually find these activities as leisurely.
So even if we have plenty of modern appliances to lessen the time needed to complete different tasks, the time that we could spend for leisure is now being consumed by additional, unavoidable activities and chores.
2. Stressors Abound – In an ideal world, a person who continually feels stressed at work would be able to unwind and distress when he comes home.
I’m sure there are some people who have managed to accomplish this feat and I am also certain that they are extremely happy that they “cracked the code”.
However, for 60% of adult Americans, the scenario isn’t as bright and stress free. The present reality is that more than 50% of all adults in America experience the same level of stress both at home and at work. That means that an ordinary working adult no longer experiences a reprieve from stress because both environments are deemed stressful.
3. Harmful Societal Standards – It is no secret that modern society is still ruled by double standards, especially in the workplace.
Despites significant breakthroughs in the field of gender equality, many people still subscribe to the idea that a woman who is too independent and forward-thinking is undesirable.
On the flipside, a man who doesn’t show the same set of skills is also considered a failure in terms of his professional character.
These double standards are actually toxic in the workplace because it encourages aggressive competition in males but fails to reward females who show drive and initiative. This can make the workplace an extremely frustrating and stressful place for both males and females.
4. Chronic Overwork – More than 25% of all adult working Americans complain of not having enough time in a day to finish everything they have to do.
To compensate for the scarcity of time, many adults resort to overworking which usually leads to a “burn out” phase. It can be difficult to recover from burn out if nothing is actively done to reduce a person’s stress levels at home and at work.
5. Fragmentation – The present divorce rate in the United States is a staggering 50%. This means that a significant percentage of the entire American population is comprised of single-parent families with only 1 main earner.
This reality is forcing many single parents (mostly females) to work twice or thrice as hard just to keep up with the daily expenses of their families.
Obviously this situation is extremely stressful because leisure time is almost nonexistent and all other free time from work is diverted to taking care of the children and household.