Generation stress

Americans ages 18 to 33 are more stressed-out than previous generations, according to a recent survey from the American Psychological Association. More than 52 percent of folks in this age range said their sleep had been interfered with by “overwhelming worry” within the past month.

On a scale from one to ten, one being “little to no stress” and ten being “a great deal of stress,” Millenials (ages 18 to 33) averaged 5.4, matched only by members of Generation X (ages 34 to 47). By contrast, Boomers (ages 48 to 66) averaged 4.7 on the scale, and Matures (ages 67 and older) take it down another notch to 3.7. Despite the tendency for stress to decrease with age, Americans of all ages say they experience more stress than they feel is healthy.

So many things can cause extreme stress. Graphic by Katie Gibson.
So many things can cause extreme stress. Graphic by Katie Gibson.

Millenials also take the lead when it comes to reporting stress increases in the past year. While 39 percent of the youthful generation said their stress had increased in that time-frame, only 36 percent of Gen X-ers, 33 percent of Boomers and 29 percent of Matures made the same claim.

One culprit for young folks’ unrest is the economy. Millenials and Gen X-ers tend to be concerned about work, money and job stability, and 76 percent of Millenials (more than any other generation) said work is a somewhat or significant stressor.

These worries come at a time when the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent and possibly as high as 11.5 percent for Americans 18 to 29 years old. At the same time, wages for young workers have decreased, and half of recent college grads are employed in positions that don’t require a college degree.

“Most of these young people have come out of college or graduate school with horrendous student debt into a job market where there are not many jobs,” Katherine Nordal, executive director for professional practice of the APA, said to NBC. “This has put their life plans probably on hiatus; they may be postponing marriage, postponing having a family.”

Young folks also showed greater tendency than their elders to drink alcohol or eat unhealthily to deal with stress.

Despite all this, there may be hope for America’s youth. Happiness and emotional well-being tend to increase as people age, and 80 percent of those 18 to 29 feel their standard of living is improving. Young people are also the most likely to believe that today’s youth will have a better life than their parents, though that optimism showed a decline across all age groups over the past few years.

Millenials reported more likely than other generations to relax by spending time with their family and friends. While Boomers were reported the most likely generation to walk or exercise to deal with stress, and Gen X-ers tailed closely behind, a slim majority (51 percent) of Millenials also use these as coping methods. America’s young adults may be stressed-out, but in some ways they aren’t so different from their parents and grandparents after all.