BACKGROUND: Stress and stress-related disorders are common in primary care. The stress-related needs for patients are often unmet partially due to the time and resource constraints inherent to many primary care settings. We examined the relative significance of key demographic and lifestyle factors related to stress among primary care patients. This information is unknown and needed to strategize these increasingly limited resources.
METHODS: We distributed surveys to 100 consecutive adult patients in each of four family medicine centres in metropolitan Detroit between 2006 and 2007. Hierarchical multivariable regression analyses were used to assess the relative significance of the demographic and lifestyle factors related to stress.
RESULTS: Of the 400 distributed surveys, 315 (78.7%) answered a minimum of 70% of the questions and were included in the analysis. The lifestyle factors [exercise, body mass index (BMI), sleep, social support, recovery or self-care skills (such as the ability to rest, relax and recuperate)] explained 39% (P < 0.001) of the variance in stress compared to 10% (P < 0.001) by the demographic factors (age, gender, race, employment, education and marital status). Stress was inversely related to sleep (P < 0.001), recovery (P < 0.001) and social support (P = 0.02) and positively to education (P < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: The modifiable lifestyle factors explained significantly more of perceived stress among primary care patients than the demographic factors. Sleep and recovery had the biggest inverse relationship with stress, which suggests that they should be the primary target for assessment and intervention in patients who report stress or stress-related disorders.
2011. Vol. 28, no 2, 156-162 p.