Affluent in the US, Australia and Japan Have the Highest Stress in The World; Brazil and Hong Kong, The Lowest-New American Express/RoperASW survey shows busy schedules, employment, family time, and attitude relate to stress
PR Newswire - November 20, 2003

NEW YORK, Nov 20, 2003 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via Comtex/ -- High-income consumers in the US, Australia, and Japan are the most stressed out, while those in Hong Kong and Brazil are the most laid back. These are among the conclusions of the second American Express/RoperASW Global Affluent Study. The report also shows that levels of stress vary significantly, and that stress is associated with a variety of factors, including people's level of activity, employment, time with family and their personal outlook.

Overall, about half of the affluent people (55%) surveyed in the eleven countries feel a great deal of stress on a regular basis (defined as at least several times a week). However, this level varies tremendously from country to country, with a spread of 35 percentage points from the most stressed to the least stressed markets.

The American Express/RoperASW Global Affluent Study examines the habits and values of affluent consumers in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the UK and the US. More than 11,000 consumers were surveyed. The first report, covering time, money and other preferences, was issued on October 21. Today's release is the second in the series; about a dozen reports are expected in all.

High Stress and Low Stress Countries

* High Stress: Affluents in the world's two largest economies, Japan and

the US, along with Australia, shoulder the greatest burden of stress:

Fully 66% of affluent adults in the US, 63% in Australia, and 60% in

Japan say they feel stress at least several times a week.

* Low Stress: According to the survey, affluents in Brazil and Hong Kong

are the least stressed. Only 31% in Hong Kong and 35% of the affluent

in Brazil say they experience stress and tension at least several times

a week.

* Among the other six countries, frequent stress among the affluent ranges

from 42% in Germany to 58% in Canada.


% stressed at least several times a week

Global 55%

USA 66%

Australia 63

Japan 60

Canada 58

UK 54

France 54

Mexico 51

Italy 49

Germany 42

Brazil 35

Hong Kong 31

Sources of stress: Too much to do and too much work?

Busy Lives: The survey shows that affluent respondents in highly-stressed countries spend more time engaged in activities -- housework, leisure activities, and working -- than do their counterparts in low-stressed markets.

"The choices and opportunities we associate with a full life may also create feelings of pressure," says Vijay Parekh, president of American Express' international consumer business. "People sometimes feel compelled to perform and produce in today's fast-paced societies."

Among the report's findings:

* Japanese affluents spend more time on household chores than do those in

other countries (14 hours per week compared with a low of 6 hours in

Hong Kong).

* American affluents report that they participate in an average of 21

leisure activities over the course of a year. This is the highest of

any market. Brazilians on the other hand, average 18 activities, which

is among the lowest reported.

(Note: While Americans do not outrank the Brazilians in every leisure

activity, in terms of home-based activities, they are more likely than

Brazilians to engage in cooking for fun, and watching videos and DVDs.

For out-of-home entertainment, they are more likely to go to the movies,

out on dates, and to sporting events and concerts. )

Employment: There also is a correlation between employment and stress among higher-income consumers. Across the eleven markets, employed affluents report higher levels of stress. Similarly, unemployed affluents report lower levels of stress.

* Brazilians are the most relaxed -- 24% say they "almost never" feel

stress (which is to say they experience it at most only a few times a

year), compared to the 16% in the same category across the full eleven

markets. Only 67% of Brazilian affluents say they are employed,

compared with 79% in all markets.

* Ninety-one percent of the Australian affluent respondents (whose stress

levels, at 63%, are very high) are employed.

"Australia has taken on a more significant role as a global trading

partner," said John Steward, Senior Vice President and General Manager,

American Express Australia. "This has had a positive impact on

employment. Our survey results indicate that higher stress levels are

usually the norm in higher performing economies."

* American affluents have the highest percentage of high stress (66%) and

the lowest percentage of low stress (4%). This corresponds to their high

level of employment-- 82%, which is 15% higher than the Brazilian group.


%Employed (rank) % Often stressed (rank)

Global 79% 55%

Australia 91% (1st) 63% (2nd)

Canada 88% (3rd) 58% (4th)

US 82% (5th) 66% (1st)

Brazil 67% (11th) 35% (10th)

Sources of De-Stress: Family Time and Good Attitude?

Time with the family may be positive or negative, depending on where you live.

In most of the surveyed countries, affluent consumers who spent the most time with their families report the least stress. This includes Brazil, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy and Mexico.

Brazilians, for example, spend the most time of any group with their families, reporting an average of 74 hours per week, 34 hours more than the global average for affluent people and 45 more hours a week than the Japanese.

"Less time spent at work may give Brazilians more relaxing leisure time that could help them unwind," says Xiaoyan Zhao, director of the Roper study. She notes that affluent adults in Brazil report spending 24 hours a week watching television and 22 hours a week listening to the radio -- 3 and 8 hours more than the average global affluent, respectively.

In some countries, however, like the US and Australia, those who spend the most time with family report the greatest stress. In the US, for example, those who feel stress nearly every day report an average of 45 hours a week with family, while those with occasional stress spend 36 hours.

"Given today's extremely busy and active environment, even spending time with family and close friends can be stressful at times," says Mr. Parekh. "The pace of life shows no sign of slowing down, and affluent consumers around the world continue to need help both in managing money and making the time to enjoy spending it."

Positive outlook on life may help. The survey results show that cultural factors (such as a positive attitude) may be related to stress -- or the lack of it. Among the population at large across the eleven markets, the groups with the least stress showed the greatest confidence that their personal economic conditions would improve over the next year. (Australia was the only exception.)

Hong Kong, for example, shows a remarkably low level of stress, and it also rates high in optimism. According to RoperASW, the stress levels for the population at large in Hong Kong have been dropping over the past few years, falling six percentage points from 34% in 1999 to 28% in 2003. (During the same period of time, stress levels in most of the other markets increased 2 to 5%. In Japan, stress levels went up 12 percentage points from 46% to 58%).

Today among the affluents in Hong Kong, only 31% say they experience high stress which is about half the amount reported in the US, Australia and Japan. Yet affluent people in Hong Kong report more work hours (average of 9.2 on a typical weekday) than do those in other countries and longer commuting hours (average of 1.4 on a typical weekday) than in most countries.

What accounts for Hong Kong's low stress levels? One explanation may lie in their optimistic attitudes. Although Hong Kong consumers have experienced very difficult economic times in recent years, they are more optimistic than they were about their economic prospects. They are twice as optimistic as Japan: 46% of Hong Kong affluents are confident that they will be personally better off in the coming year, compared with 20% of Japanese affluents.

"People in Hong Kong are accustomed to rapid change, and they may be more adaptable to it than those in other cultures," says Zhao. "This flexibility may make them more resistant to stress."

Anthony Lee, Chief Executive of American Express Hong Kong, adds that "Hong Kong is an extremely dynamic city. People here are both optimistic and persevering."

"In sum, stress comes from many sources, both external and internal," says Mr. Parekh. "Affluent people often have active lives, but cultural norms also play a role in determining how people perceive and react to stress."

The information in this release is based on the Roper Reports Worldwide 2003 global survey of 1,000 people in each of eleven countries, conducted by RoperASW, an NOP World company. Respondents represent the top earning 10-20% of households surveyed in each country, with incomes varying somewhat from country to country. The margin of error for affluent consumers across the eleven markets is +/-3%.

RoperASW, a NOP World company, is a leading global market research and consulting firm. With headquarters in New York and offices in London, Manila and throughout the U.S., NOP World is the seventh largest market research company in the U.S. and among the top ten globally.

American Express Company is a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network ser vices company founded in 1850. It is a world leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, financial planning, business services, insurance and international banking.

SOURCE American Express Company

CONTACT: Elisabeth Coleman, +1-212-640-1332, or Rosa Alfonso,

+1-212-640-1712, both of American Express


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Last updated: 11/27/2003 - 10:22 AM