The American Psychological Association has found that teen stress is on the rise in a recent national survey.
More than a quarter (27%) say they experience “extreme stress” during the school year, vs. 13% in the summer. And 34% expect stress to increase in the coming year.
Stressors range from school to friends, work and family. And teens aren’t always using healthy methods to cope, finds the latest Stress in America survey from the Washington, D.C.-based American Psychological Association.
Findings on more than 1,000 teens and almost 2,000 adults suggest that unhealthy behaviors associated with stress may start early and continue through adulthood. With 21% of adults reporting “extreme” stress levels, the survey says that with teens “mirroring adults’ high-stress lives” they are “potentially setting themselves up for a future of chronic stress and chronic illness.”
The report warns that teens are at risk of a variety of physical and emotional ills and potentially shorter lifespans than their elders if they don’t act to “reverse their current trajectory of chronic illness, poor health and shorter lifespans.”
“Our study this year gives us a window in looking at how early these patterns might begin,” says clinical psychologist Norman Anderson, the association’s CEO. “The patterns of stress we see in adults seem to be occurring as early as the adolescent years — stress-related behaviors such as lack of sleep, lack of exercise, poor eating habits in response to stress.”
Teens’ average stress level was 5.8 out of 10 during the school year and 4.6 in the past month — the survey was taken in August. Adults reported average levels of 5.1 in the past month.
As a result of stress, 40% of teens report feeling irritable or angry; 36% nervous or anxious. A third say stress makes them feel overwhelmed, depressed or sad. Teen girls are more stressed than boys, just as women nationally are more stressed than men.
The report says stress appears to be affecting teens’ performance in all aspects of life:
• 59% report that managing their time to balance all activities is a somewhat or very significant stressor;
• 40% say they neglected responsibilities at home because of stress; 21% say they neglected work or school because of stress;
• 32% say they experience headaches because of stress; 26% report changes in sleeping habits;
• 26% report snapping at or being short with classmates or teammates when under stress.
Hannah Sturgill, 18, of Portsmouth, Ohio, was among those surveyed last summer when she was 17 and heading into her senior year in high school.
“The last two years in high school have been the most stressful for me and my friends,” she says. “We have to do everything and be perfect for colleges and we have a big workload. Most of the time we talk about how stressed we are.”
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