Could stress be the new obesity?

October 18, 2013 Denise Pinkney

Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, told attendees at the Healthy North Dakota Worksite Wellness Summit that stress is the new obesity. One out of every four employees is dealing with high or severe levels of stress. More than 250 people throughout the state attended the summit on Oct. 8 in Fargo.

Jan Bruce

"We spend so much money on smoking cessation, weight management and fitness, but we need do to something about stress," Bruce said. "Stress keeps you from working out, getting enough sleep and overeating. Stress is the No. 1 thing that employees are asking for help with."

According to Bruce, stress is the greatest impediment to productivity and having your head in the game. Research shows stressed individuals get about half the amount of sleep compared with people who have low stress. In addition, they are:

  • 25 percent less likely to exercise
  • 30 percent less likely to eat healthy
  • 20 percent more likely to fall off a weight loss program

Signs of stress include headaches, backaches, insomnia, overeating, anger, frustration, anxiety, apathy and difficulty in communicating and problem solving.

Health care is a real fiscal cliff, Bruce said. Sixty percent of health care spending is spent on preventable illnesses. Stress is one of the top eight risk factors for the 15 chronic diseases that account for 80 percent of total costs for all chronic disease worldwide.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that stress is an $800 billion problem annually.

Bruce said that it is important to get to the root cause of stress. Science indicates that people form habits in how they think by age 8. Those habits become engrained by age 20. In times of stress, people lean on these views of themselves, the world and the future, which are often inaccurate and lead to even more stress.