Rising Prices Causing Moderate to Severe Stress for 3 in 4 Americans
Our analysis of December 2022 data from the U.S. Census Bureau highlights the high rates of stress recent inflation is causing around the country. Find out which states and cities are home to residents facing the highest rates of financial stress.
- 74.7% of American adults feel moderately or very stressed about price increases in the past two months.
- More than 80% of adults in Alabama, Texas and Louisiana report the same high levels of stress.
- 24 states reported the same high stress levels for at least 75% of residents.
- Even in Washington D.C., which reported lower inflation-related stress levels than any state, more than 54% of adults are feeling moderately or very stressed about inflation.
- More than one in five Americans (22%) say they’ll delay medical treatment such as refilling a prescription or scheduling surgery to cope with recent rising prices, and nearly a third of Americans (31%) say they’re purchasing less produce and fresh meat due to rising costs.
Money is a top cause of stress for many Americans today, according to the American Psychological Association. With recent inflation reaching its highest levels since the early 1980’s, some U.S. residents are reporting much more intense stress due to rising prices than others.
Our analysis of the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey finds that three out of four American adults reported feeling moderately or very stressed about recent price increases. In some states, more than 80% of residents reported this same high level of financial stress due to inflation. The other options given to survey takers were “a little stressful” and “not at all stressful.”
According to the American Institute of Stress, stress is among the leading causes of premature death.
The table below shows the percentage of adults in each state who reported being moderately or very stressed about the rise in costs through November and December of 2022. Inflation-related stress levels are highest in the south and are generally lower in the northeast.
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The following table displays the percentage of adults in some of America’s largest cities who reported moderate or very high levels of stress due to inflation.
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Our analysis of the Census Bureau data finds levels of financial stress are unevenly distributed among Americans with different education backgrounds and income levels.
- 62% of Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher are feeling moderately or very stressed about recent inflation. The rate of reported high stress is 20 percentage points higher (82%) for Americans who have a high school diploma, GED or less.
- More than 86% of those with annual incomes of $50,000 or less are feeling moderately or very stressed about inflation. Fewer than 44% of Americans who make $200,000 or more report the same high levels of stress caused by cost increases.
Our survey analysis also explored the many methods adults in the U.S. are using to counter inflation in their everyday lives.
American adults reported making lifestyle changes and sacrifices to cope with recent inflation, such as canceling subscriptions, purchasing fresh produce less frequently, decreasing utility use during winter months and increasing their reliance on credit cards, loans or pawnshops.
- Delay medical treatment (e.g., refill prescription, surgery) (22% of Americans)
- Contribute less to savings and/or retirement accounts (31%)
- Increase use of credit cards, loans, and/or pawnshops (22%)
- Purchase less fresh produce and/or meat (31%)
- Decrease use of utilities (e.g., cooling, heating, water, electricity) (28%)
- Shop at stores that offer lower prices, look for sales and/or use coupons (65%)
- Switch from name brand to generic products (47%)
- Go out to eat less often or order food for delivery less often (54%)
- Cancel or reduce subscription services (e.g., streaming services, meal delivery services, cell phone plan) (38%)
- Cancel or decrease plans to attend events (36%)
- Drive less or change mode of transportation (e.g., bike or take metro instead of drive) (27%)
- Delay major purchases (e.g., home repair/renovation, vacations, vehicles, home appliances, cell phone or computer) (50%)
- Work additional job(s)/shift(s) to supplement income (20%)
“On the demand side, many countries funneled large sums of money to households and companies during the pandemic, to ensure that they could manage lockdowns and layoffs,” says Frick. “That increased the money supply and may have contributed to inflation.”
Expert analysis finds several additional contributing factors to rising costs.
- COVID-19 and COVID-19 restrictions led to worker shortages that hampered production and distribution, both of which contributed to a decrease in supply. Depleted supplies in turn contributed to increased prices. American consumer prices rose more than 9% from June 2021 to June 2022, which marked the largest increase in 40 years.
- Russia exports around 10% of the global oil supply. After the invasion of Ukraine, Western banks imposed sanctions on Russian oil transactions, which created a gap in supply and a rise in gas prices.
The February to March 2022 rise in motor fuel prices represented the highest month-over-month gain on record. Increased gas prices lead to higher shipping costs, which in turn lead to higher product prices in order to offset overhead expenses.
- Federal stimulus checks to households and businesses increased the money supply, which can bid up the prices of consumer goods and contribute to demand-pull inflation. Three rounds of stimulus checks between March 2020 and March 2021 totaled $803 billion.
- The current low rate of unemployment can be a contributing factor to inflation. As companies drive up wages to remain competitive, the cost can often be passed to consumers.
- Consumer behavior shifted dramatically during the pandemic as spending shifted from in-person services to tangible goods, exceeding the production capacity of many items and materials. E-commerce sales alone rose 43% in 2020
Inflation topped 9% in 2022, its highest yearly increase since 1981. The Federal Reserve and some economists believe that inflation peaked in 2022 and will fade along with the pandemic. Others aren’t so optimistic and believe the worst may still be ahead.
Recent inflation is far from unique to the U.S. In all, 110 countries experienced higher rates of inflation than the U.S. in 2022, with 78 countries reaching double-digit inflation percentages.
The data used for this report came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, specifically Week 52 data released January 5, 2023.
The data includes respondents who reported rising prices in November and December 2022 made them feel "moderately stressful" or "very stressful." The other answer choices included "a little stressful," "not at all stressful" or a null response.