Millennials: the most stressed-out generation in America

Jessica Ferri

With a lack of employment, purpose, and stable relationships, the lives of HBO's Girls are in constant disarray. Now it turns out there may be a reason why they are so dysfunctional: their age.

“Millennials,” those aged 18-33, are the most stressed-out generation in the country, according to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey. The results were discussed at a press conference on Thursday.

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In a survey of 2,000 Americans, Millennials report a stress level of 5.4 out of 10, much higher than the Boomers’ 4.7 and the Matures’ 3.7, and 39 percent of Millennials said their stress levels had risen in the past year. This comes as a surprise, as many might expect that Boomers, who were hit-hard by the recession, to have the highest stress levels.

In fact higher stress levels were reported amongst every generation, most likely because of the economy, “but the expectations of Millennials are especially high. There’s a huge emphasis placed on school, and once they get out into the workplace Millennials discover that their academic achievements don’t translate,” Dr. Lynn Bufka, one of the psychologists who developed the Stress in America report, told Yahoo! Shine.

While Gen-X (ages 34 to 47) has had the time to reformat their expectations, Millennials are still struggling to succeed with very little life experience. For instance, at 40, many Gen Xers may have hoped to purchase their first home. But because of financial reasons, they’ve had to rethink what’s expected of them.

“One reason Gen-X might be able to cope better with these stressors has to do with their life experience, but it also has to do with parenting styles. We’ve seen that parents of Millennials were very eager to protect their children from the realities of the economy and the work place,” Bufka told Shine. “Because of this, some Millennials are at a disadvantage when coping with adversity.”

Short-term stress can lead to headaches, sleep problems, stomach issues, even colds and viral illnesses. But the real concern, says Bufka, is chronic, recurrent stress. “Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between the effects of stress and the negative things we do to cope with it, like overeating, not exercising, and making impulsive decisions.”

Unfortunately, 49 percent of everyone surveyed said they didn’t believe that receiving professional help would ease their stress. “This is a very common assumption and it’s unfortunate one,” Bufka said. “Imagine if we had a yearly mental-health check-up like we do for our physical health!”

Major stressors like the state of the economy are out of our control. What we can control is our reaction to stress. Here are a few pointers on coping with stress from Dr. Bufka:

Carve out personal time and learn how to say no
“One of the most difficult things to do when you’re stressed is to make time for yourself, but it’s essential. Take a step back and ask, ‘is there anything I can ditch to reduce these stressors?’ Set boundaries in terms of your work and social life, and make time for exercise, sleep, and relaxation.

Reconfigure your expectations

Follow the example of Gen Xers who have had to reconfigure their expectations. Just because you feel pressure to have reached a certain position or a certain salary doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve failed.

How you interpret stressful situations is everything
How many times have we all stressed ourselves out over what turned out to be nothing? “How we interpret situations has a huge impact on stress. If you always go for the negative assumption, your stress levels will be high. There could be a much more rational explanation—don’t jump to the worst conclusion.”

Related links:
College Graduates Facing Larger Mountains of Debt
Surprising Stress Busters
Frightening Level of Stress in Young People