The Stressful Life (Sorry, Parents)

Conventional wisdom says stress is the default condition of modern life. New polling by Gallup calls that notion into question-for people who don’t have kids underfoot, that is. Seventy-six percent of adults said they experience stress in their daily lives at least sometimes, but many fewer (40 percent) said they suffer “frequently.” Parents will be unsurprised to learn that the incidence of frequent stress is considerably higher for people with children in the household. Forty-nine percent of parents with kids under 18 said they experience frequent daily stress, while 37 percent said they do so sometimes and 15 percent rarely or never. (The total exceeds 100 percent due to rounding.) Among those without kids under 18, the tally was 34 percent “frequently,” 38 percent “sometimes” and 28 percent “rarely/never.”

The same poll asked respondents whether they have enough time “to do what you want to do these days.” Among parents with kids under 18 at home, “no” outpointed “yes” by 62 percent to 38 percent. The pattern was just the opposite for people without kids: 62 percent said they do have enough time, 38 percent said they don’t. Having a kid at home seems to be slightly worse than holding a job when it comes to enjoying sufficient free time. Forty percent of working adults said they’ve got enough free time in their daily lives. Naturally, the number was higher (72 percent) among people who aren’t employed.

In all, 53 percent of adults said they have enough time to do what they want to do, while 47 percent said they don’t. Contrary to the notion that lack of free time is now more severe than ever, those numbers have barely budged during the past decade and a half.

While parenthood provides other sources of stress, lack of time is stressful in itself, judging from correlations in the data. Among people who reported having enough time to do what they want, 27 percent said they often endure stress; among those who don’t have enough time, 54 percent said they often suffer stress.