Generation: Stressed!

by Gabrielle Balzell

I’m stressed. You’re stressed. We’re all stressed! But who’s the most stressed out of all? The American Psychological Association says it’s the millennials.

According to the APA’s most recent Stress in America report, millennials—defined as American adults ages 18 to 34—reported higher stress levels than both their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Many also claimed that their stress had increased in the past year, and 52 percent said stress has even kept them up at night.

In addition to massive student loan debt—the U.S. Census Bureau reports that among graduates, two-thirds owe an average of $28,500—and a tough job market, many millennials are feeling the pressure from work. Compared to 65 percent of Gen Xers and 62 percent of Baby Boomers, 76 percent of the millennials surveyed said work is a “somewhat” or “significant” stressor—a stark increase from the APA’s 2009 survey, when less than half felt that way.

Adding insult to injury, many millennials believe they could be doing better in the business world. According to the Pew Research Center, 41 percent of the 23.4 million Americans who consider themselves “underemployed” are age 30 or under, and Demos, a nonpartisan policy and research center, reports that only 53 percent are currently working in their chosen fields.

Not only are millennials more stressed, they’re also less adept at handling it. Just 29 percent of the APA survey respondents said they were doing an “excellent” or “very good” job at managing stress, while 44 percent reported experiencing irritability or anger because of it. And these tensions could spell health problems for this generation further down the road. According to NBC Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman, stress is a major contributing factor to obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. None of those conditions pair well with poor eating habits, drinking or smoking—coping mechanisms Dr. Snyderman says millennials are more likely to use to manage their stress compared to older generations.

In addition to potential health ramifications, the future presents many unknown obstacles for millennials. It’s understandable that many of this generation’s 70 million members worry about ever receiving Social Security benefits, while impending setbacks coupled with current struggles have led many millennials to put their life plans on hiatus.

Demos found that nearly half (46 percent) have delayed buying a home, while a third have held off from moving out on their own. Moreover, 30 percent have postponed starting a family, and a quarter have put off getting married. Data from the Pew Research Center suggests the trend of millennials delaying big decisions may already be having a ripple effect. In 2011, the U.S. birth rate fell to its lowest level (63.2 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age) since 1920, and the total fertility rate—the estimated number of children born to adult women in their lifetime—has dropped to 1.9.

With the weight of the world seemingly on their shoulders, it’s no wonder Demos found that nearly half of millennials believe they will ultimately fare worse in life than their parents. iBi

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