More than two-thirds of American women interviewed for a recent survey say that the nation’s sagging economy has negatively affected their lives or the lives of their loved ones. The findings also indicate women may be neglecting their own needs while focusing on other concerns.

The two-part telephone survey examined the impact of the economic crisis on the mental well-being of women both nationally and in Clinton County, Ohio, where survey respondents report significantly higher levels of hardship amid deep job cuts by air freight giant DHL, which has devastated the local economy.

Women in the survey report sharp increases in stress, anxiety, frustration and other negative mental health indicators since the recession took hold last fall, with job loss pushing these increases even higher. And while more than three-quarters of these women report engaging in one or more positive coping strategies, most tend to prioritize family and other financial responsibilities ahead of their own needs — a tendency that can backfire despite the best of intentions.

“Women will take care of their families before making sure they have what they need to stay healthy. If at all possible, they should avoid spending cuts on activities and resources that can help maintain their own health,” said APA President Nada L. Stotland, M.D., M.P.H.

“For instance, keep up the gym membership, even if it means you can’t give your kids the latest electronics. Take time to exercise and eat right. The bottom line is that taking care of your mental health is necessary to your ability to care for your family.”

In this national telephone survey, women rank the ability to provide food, clothing and education for their families, relationships with family and friends, and personal finances such as mortgages and retirement savings, as more important than their own mental and physical health.

“Losing a job or taking a wage cut creates an ongoing source of anxiety for families. Women are particularly affected because they are often juggling the stress of their workplace demands with those of running a household and keeping their families healthy,” Dr. Stotland said.

“While this survey focused on women, the answers we found can be indicative of the health and well-being of the entire family. The challenge for each of us is to find effective ways to cope with the stress caused by the economic crisis. Reaching out to a support network can help.”

Source: American Psychological Association