Young adults feel more stress about their lives than people who are older, according to a new poll reported last week by Harris Interactive. According to an article in USA Today by Sharon Jayson, nearly 4 in 10 Millennials (in this study, defined as people aged 18 to 33) say their stress has increased in the past year, and about half say it keeps them awake at night.

On average, among the 2,020 adults over 18 who were polled for the American Psychological Association, people reported their stress levels as 4.9 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning just about no stress and 10 meaning tons. For Millennials, though, it was higher: their average self-reported stress level was 5.4.

The top source of stress for these young people was work (or maybe, considering that as many as 13% of Millennials are still unemployed, the lack of it). The top choice for dealing with stress was music (listening to it, probably streaming via something like Pandora or Spotify).

Market researcher Mike Hais of Arcadia, CA, had some thoughts about why that might be. Jayson quotes him in her article this way:

Millennials are growing up at a tough time. They were sheltered in many ways, with a lot of high expectations for what they should achieve. Individual failure is difficult to accept when confronted with a sense you're an important person and expected to achieve. Even though, in most instances, it's not their fault — the economy collapsed just as many of them were getting out of college and coming of age — that does lead to a greater sense of stress.

Hais also noted, according to Jayson, that feeling stress -- or admitting to it -- might just be part of being young. "It may be a phase of life. They just don't know where they're going in life," he told her.

Whatever the cause, the effect could be troubling. People who experience high levels of daily stress have been shown to have higher rates of physical ills such as hypertension. And mental ills, too, as reflected in another finding from that Harris poll: that 19% of Millennials (compared to 14% of Gen X-ers, 12% of Baby Boomers, and 11% of those over 67) have been told they suffer from depression; and 12%  (compared to 8% of Gen X=ers, 7% of Boomers, and 4% over-67s) have been told they have an anxiety disorder.

It's sad, isn't it? It takes the notion of youth being wasted on the young to a whole new level. During these years when young people should be feeling excitement and curiosity about the adult life they're finally getting to explore, many of them are too stressed-out to appreciate it.

About the Author

Robin Marantz Henig

Robin Marantz Henig is a science journalist and the co-author, with her daughter Samantha Henig, of Twentysomething: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck?

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