Americans Are Stressed Out, and It Is Getting Worse

APA's recent Stress in America annual survey is bad news, especially for youth.

Posted Dec 03, 2018

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Source: Pormezz/Shutterstock

American are stressed out... and it is getting worse! The American Psychological Association conducts an extensive yearly survey of stress in America and recently released their results for 2018. See here for details. Frankly, it isn’t pretty. While many report high levels of stress at home and at work, the stress associated with political divisiveness and the future of our country continues to be extraordinarily high with over two-thirds of respondents reporting high levels of stress in this area.

Notable in this year’s survey were stress levels among those from Generation Z (i.e., currently aged 15–21 who are typically in high school or college). Results indicate that almost a third are stressed about basic elements and necessities of life such as money and debt, housing stability, and hunger too.  Over 90 percent of respondents had stress symptoms with over half being depressed and lacking both energy and motivation. Results further suggest that while they feel the same stressors as older Americans, they feel them more intensely and have fewer resources or strategies to cope. Additionally, they scored high on stress associated with their fears of school shootings as well as the influence of social media, which they find to be a mixed bag with both positive and negative associated experienced and outcomes.

As a college professor for 25+ years teaching those in the 18–22 age group, I have certainly witnessed first-hand the remarkable increase in stress among this population. Anxiety, depression, eating disorders, attention problems, suicidal impulses and behavior, and so forth seem everywhere among the college crowd.  Their ability to cope, adapt, and their overall resiliency seems to be much more fragile today than in the past.

Certainly, much has been written and discussed about these issues in countless outlets including Psychology Today. There are no simple or quick answers but that doesn’t mean we have to throw in the towel and give up. Perhaps we all need to take a deep breath, re-center and focus our attention on our core principles and values, work toward the common good, and do whatever we can do with whatever gifts that we have to help create a community and society that is less stressed, more inclusive, gracious, respectful, forgiving, resilient, and compassionate. Perhaps we can work toward more reasonable expectations of our youth in school and elsewhere as well. Maybe we can help teach them better and more effective strategies for managing and coping with the stress that inevitably comes their way. None of this is easy but perhaps if everyone does their part, keeping their eyes on the ball using their own unique talents and gifts, we might have a prayer to turn these disturbing trends around.  If nothing else, expressing concern and compassion to those who struggle might be a good place to start. After all, it can’t hurt and can only help.

So what do you think about stress in America, especially among youth?

Copyright 2018, Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP

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