The Most Stressed-Out Generation? Young Adults

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Stress in Young Adults
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The latest survey shows stress is on the decline overall but still hover above healthy levels, especially for young adults.

In the national Stress in America survey, an annual analysis by Harris Interactive for the American Psychological Association, 35% of adults polled since 2007 reported feeling more stress this year compared with last year, and 53% said they received little or no support from their health care providers in coping with that heightened stress. The survey involved more than 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who answered an online survey in August 2012.

The participants ranked their overall stress level on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “little or no stress” and 10 being “a great deal of stress.” Overall, stress in the U.S. has been declining since 2010, when 24% of Americans reported experiencing extreme stress compared with 20% in 2012. And on average, the participants reported a stress level of 4.9, compared with the 5.2 they reported in 2011.

(MORE: The Two Faces of Anxiety)

But that trend masks some concerning hints that those declines aren’t deep enough. Most adults said they considered a stress level of 3.6 to be healthy, or manageable, and current levels remain stubbornly above this mark. The common source of stress involved money, with 69% of participants citing financial problems and conflicts as the primary cause of their anxiety, while 65% fingered work, 61% noted the economy and 56% pointed to relationship angst.

The most concerning trend emerging from the data, however, is the fact that most Americans don’t feel they are managing their stress well and that the health care system isn’t there to help them cope. A little over half of the participants said they received little or no support for stress management from their health care providers, and while 32% felt it was important to discuss their stress concerns with providers, only 17% said they actually did.

(MORE: How ‘Bring Your Dog to Work’ Days Could Lower Stress)

“Unfortunately, our country’s health system often neglects psychological and behavioral factors that are essential to managing stress and chronic diseases,” Norman Anderson, CEO of the APA said in a statement. Among the 69% of high-stress Americans who said their levels have increased in the past year, 33% had not discussed stress management with their provider.

(MORE: Can We Become Addicted to Stress?)

Despite the fact that stress increasingly touches the life of almost every American, and that there are lifestyle changes that can help to relieve some of the worst aspects of stress, once in the doctor’s office, it’s not a common topic of discussion. About 20% report never talking to their provider about lifestyle changes to improve their health, 27% don’t discuss their progress in making behavior changes to curb stress, 33% never talk about how to manage stress and 38% never discuss their mental health.

Not treating stress can have serious health consequences. The authors write:

Many living with high stress are at a tipping point, faced with potential physical and emotional-health challenges if they are not able to get the support they need to manage their stress well. If untreated, consistently high stress could become a chronic condition, which can result in serious health problems including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Research shows that stress can even contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity, or exacerbate existing illnesses.

These potential consequences are especially worrisome since the survey showed that young adults ages 18 to 33 reported the highest average level of stress at 5.4, meaning they may have to bear the brunt of the long-term effects of stress throughout their lives. Thirty-nine percent of this younger generation reported that their stress level had increased in the past year, compared with 29% of those ages 67 or older. These young adults also admitted to feeling the least equipped to manage their stress well.

(MORE: Why Being a Leader Is More Stressful than Following)

What is triggering all this worry? Among those ages 18 to 47, work, money and job stability contributed the most anxiety, while those 48 and older were more likely to be concerned with either their own health or that of their families.

“Millennials [those ages 18 to 33] are growing up at a tough time,” Mike Hais, a market researcher and co-author of two books on that generation, including Millennial Momentumtold USA Today. “They were sheltered in many ways, with a lot of high expectations for what they should achieve. Individual failure is difficult to accept when confronted with a sense you’re an important person and expected to achieve. Even though, in most instances, it’s not their fault — the economy collapsed just as many of them were getting out of college and coming of age — that does lead to a greater sense of stress.”

(MORE: Why Stressed-Out Men Prefer Heavier Women)

Women reported feeling more stress than men, with an average rating of 5.3 vs. 4.6, and women were also more likely to feel that their stress levels increased over the past five years. Men, however, are making more strides in managing their stress, primarily through exercise or listening to music; 39% of men reported being able to cope with anxiety in the most recent survey, compared with 30% in 2010, while 34% of women felt they were able to manage their stress successfully.

Despite the encouraging signs that overall stress levels appear to be dropping, the researchers say that the lack of adequate stress management could end up reversing that trend. More discussions about stress in the doctor’s office, as well as support for lifestyle and behavior changes to cope with people’s major worries, could significantly improve the anxiety that inevitably comes with living in difficult economic times. As the authors write in the report, “If left unaddressed, this disconnect between untreated stress and chronic illness could contribute to a continued and unnecessary increase in the number of chronically ill Americans, along with a further escalation in health care costs.” Stress may be unavoidable, but managing it shouldn’t be so out of reach.

23 comments
noneeds
noneeds

I don't understand, why fight about who's fault it is, I am only 16 but I get that the stress is higher, we have this problem, stop pointing fingers, give up the blame game, no one is going to give in, simply fix the problem and get on with life, i have never owned an iphone, or a car, or any designer clothes, i do not understand how a simple article can turn into a full out argument, I cant remember which generation im in, but the stress of young people is caused by lots of things, one is the parents, the expect so much but don't understand how much economy has changed, back to the blame thing, "whenever you point at someone there are always three pointing right back at you, try it, you will see I'm right," i could care less who did it, just fix it, kids are killing themselves because all you guys can do is bicker over faults of generations, i get the wars were stressful, but it is more stressful to have a war going on in your head, and the only possible casualty is you, your sanity, well, that sounded stupid but whatever I hope it got the point across

JingJing11
JingJing11

Gosh, I know... I'm so 'coddled' and have such a 'casual' attitude at work as I work overtime to process data for my boss who takes 2 hour lunch breaks, leaves 30 minutes early every day, and can't even be bothered to spell my name correctly on her finished report (when she decides not to steal the credit for herself)... all while making exponentially more than me, despite our office being in the public/non profit sector.  Poor her, having to deal with such an inept employee...  too bad I can't just save her the trouble and find a new job because I'm lucky to have found THIS one after spending four years working in restaurants and putting myself through school solely thanks to earned academic scholarships.  I'd ask our Baby Boomer generation secretary to help, but oh, looks like she spent another entire eight hour workday on Facebook.  Good thing she'll get a nice, big, fat retirement package in a couple years thanks to her excellent service.  Mine however, has been slashed to bits to the point where I don't even bother contributing.

Oh wait I forgot, I'm not allowed to be stressed! -- I'm just a spoiled, entitled clone of every other member of my generation, since apparently we have no individuality and all miraculously exited the womb with an iPhone in hand.  Funny I don't remember ever owning an iPhone, or any smartphone for that matter, until I was flat out EXPECTED at work to have one and could afford it on my own wireless plan last year, at 24.

In what I could guess would be the vernacular most individuals over 30 assume I speak in:

'Haters gonna hate.'

BrittanyOestreicher
BrittanyOestreicher

I believe young adults are the ones to be most stressed because they are trying to balance out school, work, and a social life. Does anyone have any tips or ideas to how you could lower the stress level of a stressed young adult?

MaudieZ
MaudieZ

I live near the campus of Loyola University in Chicago and am absolutely appalled on a daily basis as to the lack of social skills the students/young people have today.  You can be more than 25 yard away and they'll whip out their cell phone so they can "hide" lest they have to look you in the eye or - God Forbid - acknowledge your existence with a greeting.  I have many peers (35-45) who are having a very hard time hiring younger people; candidates might have the smarts and the degree, but they lack the ability to concentrate, focus and stay off the personal technology.   Seems as if every sentence is peppered numerous  times with "like", "you know"  and "you guys" (try making an eloquent presentation in front of your Board with those speaking skills).  It's a real crisis...this whole "casual" attitude people have with jobs and social interaction is debilitating.  It's a real problem.  We live in a graceless age.

Anonniemuss67892
Anonniemuss67892

How is this being written about in a mainstream publication as a meaningful study? It involved only 2,000 people and more importantly, (1) ALL of the data is self-reporting and (2) the participants are people who voluntarily chose to take an online survey about stress, meaning that they were (a) self-selecting and (b) not representative. Is there really an urgent need to publish this sort of junk science? Is there not any actual science news today worth discussing?

Steinerd
Steinerd

This must be a joke... Either that or most my generation was coddled through their youth. My mother was strict and sometimes harsh. But never once cruel and she made it clear to us the world was not going to give handouts and that the social safety nets should only be used in extreme cases.

Dealing with stress is all about perspective. My generation and younger lack it entirely. The American dream is dead, yes. Working hard does not promise a descent future anymore... However maybe it's me to give the American dream a new definition... Because I've reached my full measure of happiness and I'm only halfway to 30.

Advice: get your ____ together, figure out what you want to be doing 10 years from now, exclude all other influences ( current job, money, politics, etc...) and run toward it like your future has been waiting for this catharsis! I can promise you the it will be tough, but the experiences gained throughout and the ultimate sense of accomplishment will last a lifetime.

music66
music66

Bull.  I'm pretty sure that my grandfather was more stressed than me, and I was more stressed than my kids.  My grandfather was put to work in coal mines at age 13, escaped to WWII at 17, and lost a foot to a mine.  He then started with nothing, and no education.  If young folks today feel stressed because they're unable to go from college to a McMansion, two perfect kids, two Toyotas, and annual ski vacations in Colorado, then I guess they'll just have to adapt.

LeonardCat
LeonardCat

Did not discuss Stress with healthcare provider, because healthcare and healthcare providers cause stress. They are obligated to report any illness to my insurance company, who will most likely hold it against me. So, better not to tell healthcare provider any more than necessary. ... kinda sucks...

MikeMathwig
MikeMathwig

Americans Anonymous

Step#1; We admited we were powerless over our place of birth - and that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step#2; Came to belive that a power greater than a public corporation could restore us to sanity.

Etc. and on.:-)

tomsquawk
tomsquawk

I endured 15 years on the road, 300 days a year away from home and 1,000,000 air miles. Your body adapts to the stress level. I never questioned it as I needed to put food on the table. That's part of life. I liked the "farmer" ads during the Super Bowl. Guess I'm from a different generation.


barryhubris
barryhubris

Why would someone talk to healthcare about stress? My doctor can't get me a different job or make a renter pay or resolve a flood in my house. I know where my stress comes from and my doctor cannot do anything about it. Strange article. Exercise won't change the facts of life...

They can give you pills to calm down, to sleep, to make you numb but they can't change the real world.

sjacob
sjacob

Could it be this particular generation is the most stressed not because it has to deal with more stress than the generations that lived through the Great Depression or World War II or the Vietnam Era or any other truly stressful period of history but because they have been babied and coddled their whole lives and cannot deal with real life now that they have been exposed to it? They are used to being given everything they ask for - iPhones, iPads, iPods, new SUVs, designer clothes. As children they were rewarded and praised for simply breathing. Now they are expected to actually perform and meet standards. That has to be stressful!

asadM
asadM

@trcampbell71 I totally agree with your opinion. The kids are also less sociable after the smartphone came. 


trcampbell71
trcampbell71

This problem starts at home. When you grow up thinking you are special and then find out you are a loser like 95% of the other kids it must come as a shock. There are no participation trophies in real life. You have real responsibilities now. Get your head out of your Iphone and have a conversation with an adult so you can understand what it means to deal with real life situations and stress. Better yet, we need to make an iphone app because these kids have such short attention spans it will be the only way to get their attention. Thank you parents for your lack of coping skills. Now go talk to a therapist.

DBJames
DBJames

@music66 I agree. My grandfather celebrated his 19th birthday (June 6) by invading France. He joined the guard at 17 because they had run out of 18 year olds. At his high school, my gradmother checked for new names on the memorial for fallen classmates...oh...and the economy during the 30s wasn't all that great either. Now that is stress!

Matamala3
Matamala3

@tomsquawk I just wish your generation cared about its kids as much as it cares about putting the younger generations down.  When you were young, the wealth difference between old and young was 10:1.  Since Reagan, the wealth gap has increased to 40:1. Thats right, your generation is 40 times richer than todays young adults and have all the power to create businesses.  When you started, you had a legitimate job that provided economic power that could be used to start your own business, the young today just have to hope their parents are rich if they want to start their own business.  Your generation really stacked the cards against us for your own personal greed.  And the country failed under your watch, so don't be too proud.  

thisguy1
thisguy1

@sjacob That is so stupid it's not even funny. Young adults are stressed out today because, unlike your lazy ass generation, we can't just get a job straight out of high school paying $25 bucks an hour to sweep the floor at some manufacturing plant. Nowadays, kids have to rack up tons of college debt just to get the same kind of job a high school graduate could have gotten back then. Not to mention that pensions are almost completely gone! YOU had to compete with your next door neighbor for that job. WE have to compete with people from all around the world. You talk about new SUVs and designer clothes as if our generation is somehow wealthier than yours, yet the economy now is worse than it has been in a long time. You, sir, are an idiot.

LeonardCat
LeonardCat

Talk about Blaming the Victim... nice to see you have such compassion. I guess you have no stress at all in your own life?

barryhubris
barryhubris

@sjacob Disagree. Most of my employees fall into this age bracket. Those kids bust their butts. But they still get only high deductible health insurance, they still can't really use the company 401k match or employee stock purchase plan, they still get meager raises while we report billions in profit. They see the writing on the wall. While their parents were paid a living wage and had some job security, these kids are told to suckmit up until their white collar jobs are shipped off to india so the company can save fifty more cents on each dollar. They see a government run entirely by big business and as they are victims of big business stealing from them daily, they know it will only turn out poorly for them.

You say they are coddled? I say their selfish bommer parents have helped turned this into a profit over principles nation. The kids know it. They know that the greatest generation handed off something great, while the boomers and gen x have squandered it all for the right now attitude that runs government and all major businesses.

tomsquawk
tomsquawk

@Matamala3 @tomsquawk sorry that's not true. be careful of broad generalities. meet my children, talk to their friends. not the children you speak about in your tweet. they are where they are because we did care. rich, isn't it individual rather than collective effort? and, define rich please.

tomsquawk
tomsquawk

@Matamala3@tomsquawk "Guess I'm from a different generation." that's my quote, where did i accuse another? hold up the mirror when you speak. goodbye

Matamala3
Matamala3

@tomsquawk Your a fool.  You speak of broad generalties about an entire generation and then whine when I do the same to yours.  All the info I put in were facts so deal with the truth,  You are the one reading twitter and blogs for all your information on how lazy my generation is while I bring real economic data because... I am a trained economist!  But I wouldn't except less from an arrogant baby boomer who ran our country into the ground with greed, ships all the middle class jobs college students work when they graduate overseas, and then whines about a poor generation that has no good work WHEN ITS YOUR GENERATIONS FAULT.