Generation Xers, who came of age in the era after the Vietnam War, are typically known as being apathetic and mellow compared with the generation that preceded them. At the same time, the children of divorce and a culture of economic uncertainty, Gen X tends to be neurotic and ambitious.
If the APA survey is any indication, it seems that the neurotic side may be winning out. Now between ages 32 and 45, Gen Xers reported the highest average stress levels — 5.8 out of a possible 10 — among the various generations surveyed. Among Gen Xers, 48% said they weren't doing enough to manage their stress and nearly half reported physical symptoms of stress, such as fatigue and headaches, and psychological symptoms like irritability and anger.
Some of this stress has to do with life stage rather than generational characteristics. Job, housing and financial stability are important to people in their 30s and 40s, many of whom are supporting families or paying mortgages. So the financial stakes are typically higher for this group than for those who are older or younger — indeed, 59% of Gen Xers cite housing costs as a source of stress and 75% of them reported financial and job security as significant stressors.
Their lifestyle habits aren't exactly making things better either. Compared with other age groups, Gen Xers tended to engage in the most unhealthy behaviors: sleeping too little, overeating and drinking alcohol.
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Americans are overstressed — and you probably didn’t need a national study [PDF] to tell you that. But the recently released survey — of more than 2,000 adults and 1,100 tweens and teens — by the American Psychological Association finds that the most anxious groups in the country aren’t the ones you’d immediately expect.