Are People in the South Really Happier?
Stress, depression and anxiety have become much more prevalent since the days of Covid-19. While the pandemic forced us all to slow things way down, it placed many more stressors on us and our families. Are people in the Southern states necessarily happier living a slower pace of life? The data doesn’t seem so.
According to the World Health Organization, mental health conditions are increasing worldwide. These conditions can impact all aspects of life, including school and workplace performance, and relationships with our friends, family and peers, as well as our ability to participate in our local communities. Depression and anxiety, which are two of the most common mental health conditions, are estimated to have a $1 trillion-dollar impact on the global economy each year.
While the sources of these conditions come from multiple places, workplace stress is a significant contributing factor to the global mental health crisis. Changes in the economy and rising financial pressures increase stress at work. This is exacerbated by heavy workplace burdens, wage pressure and interpersonal issues between employees in the workplace. Mental health conditions can also result in loss of productivity that can impact the financials of companies.
According to reporting by the American Institute of Stress, U.S. businesses lose up to $300 billion a year as a direct result of workplace stress. And further, that stress causes around one million U.S. workers to miss work every day. As a result of this source of stress, 63 percent of U.S. workers have reported being ready to quit their jobs.
At a regional level, the statistics get even more interesting. According to a 2022 report, the 10 most stressful states are: Louisiana, West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Nevada and New Mexico,
What is particularly interesting about this is the high proportion of Southern states, which seems to go against the conventional belief that residents of Southern states tend to be more easygoing and laid back.
Although the exact reasons are not fully known, it is thought that higher levels of relative poverty, lack of access to medical services and greater incidences of job insecurity are contributing factors. Also contributing to overall levels of stress are the hours of sleep respondents reported, how many hours of work they put in each week, divorce rates, housing prices, crime rates and access to psychiatry services.
While these factors are by no means unique to Southern states, it perhaps helps to explain some of the potential contributing factors.
How to Alleviate Stress?
If you have found yourself experiencing high levels of workplace stress, however, there are some steps you can take to address them.
While the structural conditions producing and exacerbating the sources of stress in our lives can’t necessarily be controlled by us, we can nevertheless take measures to manage our reactions to them.
For example, by identifying a source of stress, labeling it and taking actions to mitigate its effects, we can take the edge off. These mitigating actions might include breathing exercises, meditation, exercise, talking through your emotions with a trained professional or undertaking leisure activities that lower the stress level. Leisure activities—whether they be hiking, watching movies or playing games—are particularly effective as they provide a powerful form of escapism from work-related stress.
Ultimately, however, these are just a few ways of dealing with workplace stress. And what is effective for one person might not necessarily have the same levels of efficacy for someone else.
What is most important is that you keep these different sources of stress in your life under watch. By paying attention to the different ways in which stress is affecting you, you can assess if you need help to live a happier, more leisurely, lifestyle.