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The 6 Most Stressful Days of 2011

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Days of Stress

oklahoma ef-4 tornado

The biggest November tornado in Oklahoma's history. (Image credit: Steve Grabman/NWS.)

There are many personal issues that can cause you stress, such as work, financial problems or relationships. But high-profile national and international events can also take a toll on your mental health.

The Gallup polling agency has been keeping track of the daily well-being of Americans and marking the days that people feel happiest and most stressed. Here are the six most stressful days of 2011 and the events that may have sparked those negative feelings, as determined by Gallup. [Read full story]

Jan. 26: Egyptians Protest

Hundreds of Egyptian anti-government protesters gather in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt on Feb 1, 2011.

Hundreds of Egyptian anti-government protesters gather in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt on Feb 1, 2011. (Image credit: MOHPhoto | Shutterstock)

On Jan. 25, 2011, Egyptian citizens rallied against their government and its leader, President Hosni Mubarak, leading to bloody clashes between security forces and protesters. The protests, which initially started off as a campaign of non-violent civil resistance, came on the heels of the Tunisian revolution.

With an all-out revolution looming in Egypt, 15 percent of Gallup survey respondents felt high levels of stress and little happiness on Jan. 26, the day after the protests began. (Gallup also notes President Obama’s Jan. 25 State of Union Address as a possible stressor.)

This day, along with the next five, ties for the second most stressful day of 2011.

Feb. 3: Egyptian Revolution Heats Up

Egyptian Flag

Egypt's flag bears the national emblem, the Gold Eagle of Saladin (Image credit: CIA World Factbook)

Supporters of President Mubarak launched an attack on Egyptian protestors on Feb. 2. A day later, the Egyptian army finally stepped in to try to calm the civil unrest. Also on this day, a U.S. State Department spokesperson came down hard on Egyptian forces, which harassed, detained and beat foreign journalists in an attempt to silence them.

The growing strife in Egypt possibly made this day one of the most stressful for Americans (and, no doubt, for Egyptians).

April 4: Nuclear Plant Leaks Radioactive Materials

Fukushima satellite

Satellite image of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant three days after the Tohoku earthquake struck. (Image credit: GeoEye)

In early March, the T?hoku earthquake and tsunami struck the Japanese coastline, helping to cause a dangerous nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Initially, Americans worried about the effects that radiation released into the air could have on their health, should the radiation travel across the Pacific Ocean.

But a few weeks later, they stopped looking up and started looking down — high amounts of radioactive iodine had been leaking from the plant’s No. 2 reactor and into the ocean. Around April 4, workers had begun trying to plug the leak with a mixture of sawdust, shredded newspaper and an absorbent powder after concrete didn’t work. These new efforts didn’t appear particularly effective either.

April 18: Taxes Are Due

Americans are feeling more negative about their personal finances than they have in four decades.

Americans are feeling more negative about their personal finances than they have in four decades. (Image credit: Barbara Reddoch | Dreamstime.com)

In the past, tax time has been stressful for a lot of people, and 2011 proved no different.

Last year, Americans got a few extra days to turn in their taxes, but this did nothing to reduce stress — it just made April 18, the day taxes were due, one of the most stressful days of the year.

As Gallup states: "This is likely related to the pressure many are under to file on time, but may also reflect the anxiety brought by the focus on one's personal finances."

April 27: Tornadoes Attack

The view from the door of a damaged home in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The view from the door of a damaged home in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Image credit: Emily Butler)

Between April 25 and April 28, a series of tornadoes ravaged the Southern, Midwestern and Northeastern United States. Overall, the outbreak killed over 300 people and caused nearly $11 billion worth of damages.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration counted 312 tornadoes touching down from 8:00am April 27 to 8:00am April 28 — this is most tornadoes ever recorded in a 24 hour period in U.S. history.

With so many tornadoes and so much disaster, it’s no wonder that 16 percent of Gallup respondents felt a lot of stress and little happiness on April 27, making this day the most stressful of 2011.

May 10: Mississippi River Floods

NASA satellite

A NASA satellite image of the Mississippi River flooding Memphis, Tenn. (Image credit: NASA)

The Mississippi River is no stranger to floods, and in April and May of last year, thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes when the river experienced some of the largest and most damaging floods it’s had in the past century. The cause of the floods was reportedly a combination of record levels of rainfall and springtime snowmelt.

It’s not clear why May 10 stood out as the most stressful day during the flooding period. But it’s interesting to note that the river reached nearly 48 feet in Memphis on May 10 (the highest water level for the Tenn. city since 1937) and NASA released satellite images of the flooding on that day.

Joseph Castro
Joseph Bennington-Castro is a Hawaii-based contributing writer for Live Science and Space.com. He holds a master's degree in science journalism from New York University, and a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Hawaii. His work covers all areas of science, from the quirky mating behaviors of different animals, to the drug and alcohol habits of ancient cultures, to new advances in solar cell technology. On a more personal note, Joseph has had a near-obsession with video games for as long as he can remember, and is probably playing a game at this very moment.