Teenage Stress Rivals That Of Their Older Adult Counterparts: Survey
February 13, 2014

Teenage Stress Rivals That Of Their Older Adult Counterparts: Survey

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Most people of a certain age remember their teenage years as a time of high stress and a new survey from the American Psychological Association (APA) has confirmed that teens experience similar stress patterns to their older adult counterparts.

The survey also found that teens are more likely than adults to say their stress level has minimal or no impact on their physical health – 54 percent of teens compared to 39 percent of adults – or their mental health – 52 percent of teens compared to 43 percent of adults.

“It is alarming that the teen stress experience is so similar to that of adults. It is even more concerning that they seem to underestimate the potential impact that stress has on their physical and mental health,” said Norman B. Anderson, chief executive and vice president of the APA. “In order to break this cycle of stress and unhealthy behaviors as a nation, we need to provide teens with better support and health education at school and home, at the community level and in their interactions with health care professionals.”

Conducted in August 2013, the US survey included nearly 2,000 adults and just over 1,000 teens. Teen respondents said their stress level throughout the school season far surpasses what they think to be healthy: 5.8 for teens compared to 3.9 for adults on a 10-point scale. Teens’ reported stress level also topped that of adults: 5.8 to 5.1 respectively.

Even during the summer vacation period, teens claimed their stress was higher than what they believe is healthy, 4.6 compared to 3.9 for adults. Many teenagers also said they were feeling overwhelmed (31 percent) and depressed or unhappy (30 percent) as a result of stress. Greater than one-third of teens reported fatigue or feeling tired and almost one-quarter of teens reported skipping a meal due to stress.

The APA said the survey suggested that unhealthy behaviors connected with stress may begin occurring early in people’s lives. The organization noted that high levels of stress are linked with poor sleep quality, less exercise and bad diet choices. These unhealthy behaviors were seen manifesting differently in teens and adults.

When adults in the survey did not get enough sleep, 21 percent said they felt more stressed. Almost 1-in-5 teens in the survey said that when they do not get enough sleep, they feel more stress and 36 percent of teens said they felt tired because of stress in the previous month.

Poor eating habits and stress were also found to have a different, albeit negative, relationship in teens and adults. About one-quarter of adults said they manage stress by eating and 34 percent of those who reported bad dietary choices due to stress say this behavior is an acquired habit. Of the 23 percent of teen respondents who reported skipping a meal due to stress, 39 percent said this is a weekly habit.

“Parents and other adults can play a critical role in helping teens get a handle on stress by modeling healthy stress management behaviors,” Anderson suggested. “When spending time with teens, we can encourage them to exercise, eat well, get the sleep they need and seek support from health care professionals like psychologists to help them develop healthier coping mechanisms for stress sooner rather than later.”