Q. Stress among clergy is a little-noticed but growing problem in the U.S. According to reports, priests and pastors suffer from rates of obesity, diabetes, depression and hypertension at greater levels than the average American, as well as higher usage of antidepressants.
Part of the blame for this is being put on the pressure to be successful, such as increasing congregation size, dealing with, and increasing, church finances, and general administration. Studies have also found that clergy don't — or feel they can't — take vacations because of the pressures and duties that come with their role. Rich Teeters, a veteran pastor and speaker who currently serves at Renaissance Church, a non-denominational congregation in Summit, N.J., said, “People's deaths and serious illnesses and troubles and marital problems — they don't take vacations.” Teeters has cancelled, or cut short, his own vacations to conduct funerals or help congregants in distress.
Clergy can also find themselves isolated within their own congregations, with one pastor saying, “Clergy have been seen as either superhuman who needed no friends, or subhuman who could exist without them — but certainly not human.” Many have cited the need to be available 24/7 as reasons for not only stress, but also for cutting down on their time to prepare sermons and deal with day-to-day administration. To research stress among clergy, Duke Divinity School is conducting a Clergy Health Initiative, a seven-year, $12-million program designed to improve the health of pastors by putting their wellbeing first.