Millennials Are the Most Stressed Americans, Study Says

We’re sexy, smart, successful — and super-stressed. A new report says young adults are more stressed than any other age group.
Millennials Are the Most Stressed Americans, Study Says

Greatist News examines and explains the trends and studies making headlines in fitness, health, and happiness. Check out all the news here. Happiness and well-being are notoriously difficult to measure, and it seems like every day there’s new research telling us why things are looking up or why we’re all doomed to misery. When it comes to young people, the psychology is especially confusing. Just yesterday, Greatist reported on a new study suggesting that, although people get happier as they age, every generation is cheerier than the one that came before it. Now, a report from the American Psychological Association suggests that millennials (people between the ages of 18 and 33) are more stressed, depressed, and anxious than anyone else in the country. Happy, indeed!

What’s the Deal?

Photo by Marissa Angell

The Stress in America Survey asked more than 2,000 American adults ages 18 and over to fill out an online survey in August 2012. The report starts out hopeful: Stress levels in the U.S. have actually decreased slightly in the last few years. Right now the average American adult reports a stress level of 4.9, compared with 5.2 in 2011, 5.4 in 2010, 5.9 in 2008, and 6.2 in 2007. But from there, the news is pretty grim. In general, Americans (not just millennials) are still more stressed than they feel they should be and many say they’re not getting appropriate support from their healthcare providers.

The report also tracks stress levels according to age, and apparently, millennials are more stressed than any other group. They report an average stress level of 5.4, compared with the national average of 4.9. And not only are they more stressed, but they’re also less likely to be able to control their freak-outs. Just about half of millennials say they’re doing enough to manage their stress, compared with 61 percent of all adult Americans. Millennials are also more likely than the rest of the population to report engaging in unhealthy or sedentary behaviors to fight their feelings (the study mentions stress-eating, playing video games, and surfing the Internet as common behaviors for coping with stress). Feeling blue yet? Wait — there’s more. Millennials have a higher rate of diagnosed depression and anxiety disorders than any other age group.

So what’s everyone getting so worked up about? The top sources of stress for millennials are work, money, and job stability. (Older Americans are more likely to fret about family and health issues.) And don’t even get us started about the stress of seeing we’ve been unfriended on Facebook.

Is It Legit?

Probably. When it comes to measuring stress levels by generation, there’s a lot of research behind the idea that Gram and Gramps are much less stressed than younger Americans. And APA surveys have been indicating for a few years (2010 and 2011) that millennials and Gen Xers (ages 34 to 47) are more stressed than any other age group, with millennials’ stress levels increasing every year. 2012 marks the first time millennials outpaced Gen Xers in terms of their stress levels.

While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s bugging millennials, a lot of evidence suggests financial problems are a big issue. Recent APA surveys (see the 2010 and 2011 reports cited above) show that millennials are more and more likely to cite “money” as a significant source of stress. It’s hard not to realize why, as young people are increasingly burdened by student debt and rising rates of unemployment, even among college graduates.

The Takeaway

Thinning wallets don’t necessarily mean the 18 to 34 crowd is doomed (despite what the characters on “Girls have to say). Stress itself isn’t a bad thing — it’s all about how we manage it. The stats on millennials’ stress levels are scary, but even more alarming is the fact that most Americans say they aren’t receiving the right kind of mental health support from their healthcare providers.

Rather than seeing this survey as another reason to freak out, young Americans can start taking the initiative to approach their health care providers with their mental health concerns. Likewise, health care experts can make a point of inquiring about these issues even when patients don’t bring them up. The best defense against stress may ultimately be to address it before it starts. Feeling frazzled these days? How have your stress levels changed over the last few years? Let us know in the comments below or tweet the author at @ShanaDLebowitz.

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