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Stress levels among people in New Jersey are not very different from those among people nationally, but residents of South Jersey reported more stress than their northern neighbors in several life categories, a new study has found.

Researchers from the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy released their findings from the New Jersey Health and Well-Being Poll, which showed more than a quarter of state residents have a great deal of stress in their lives. For those in the southernmost parts of the state, it was sometimes even greater.

“New Jersey residents having a hard time making ends meet and those experiencing health problems are among those most likely to report high stress,” said Joel Cantor, director of the Rutgers center.

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The poll, conducted by phone between Oct. 24 and Nov. 22, 2016, took responses from 1,202 New Jersey adults, who indicated their stress levels — great deal of stress, some stress, or not very much or no stress — in a number of situations.

The poll asked residents how they felt about not having enough money to pay bills, not having enough time to do the things they wanted or needed, their jobs or looking for a job, family, the health of immediate family members and their personal health.

Experts said although results revealed few differences in stress depending on where a person lived, people living in South Jersey reported greater stress around time- and family-related issues.

Overall, about 76 percent of participants living in southeastern New Jersey (Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties) reported at least some or a great deal of stress in their lives.

Residents living in these counties reported the highest levels of stress or worry statewide about not having enough time to accomplish things, with more than 28 percent reporting a great deal of stress.

Poll results also showed a higher percentage of South Jersey residents felt a great deal of stress or worry about their jobs or looking for a job (19.1 percent), about a family member (21.6 percent), about a family member’s health (27.6 percent) and about personal health (14.9 percent).

Kerry Anne McGeary, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the project, said research shows stress can significantly impact health. Polls such as this can help experts get a better picture of why, how much and whom stress affects.

“Knowing just how much stress New Jerseyans are burdened with helps us find the way to new solutions to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible,” she said.

Cantor, who worked on the project with several other analysts and experts, said health is an important driver of stress. More than 40 percent of the state’s residents who are in fair or poor health reported high levels of stress.

Experts said that came as little surprise given the current climate around health care affordability and access, with national debates on health care reform in Washington, D.C.

These are the second set of results from data collected from the New Jersey Health and Well-Being Poll. A Rutgers report released in May on how residents viewed their neighborhoods showed South Jersey residents were more unhappy with where they lived compared with people in other regions.

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Contact: 609-272-7022 NLeonard@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Previously interned and reported for Boston.com, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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