Stressed out over the economy? A measure of the national mood

The economy, the economy, the economy -- Americans seem able to think of little else. How could they? The negative reports on job losses, on tanking investments, housing prices and consumer confidence keep coming, leaving us not just unwilling to spend, but stressed out and fearful. That stress takes a toll -- on sleep, mood, physical health, relationships, eating habits (and thus weight) and, perhaps, our willingness to indulge in favorite vices. "Times of economic stress lead to increased rates of depression," says Dr. Christopher Palmer, director of continuing education at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. "It exacerbates illness in people who have been chronically depressed. But it also causes new cases of depression. Just the fear of losing one's job can put people over the edge." And, of course, depression itself can create a cascade of negative health effects. The direct correlation between economic uncertainty and personal health is not clear. What follows is a statistical look, as best we can muster, at how Americans are faring.

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