most stressed out age group

More conversation about stress

Many Americans are stressed, but which age group suffers the most stress and what causes it?

Since 2012 studies have showed that Millennials, ages 20 – 35, are the most stressed out age group in the U.S.   In addition, every year GenXers (ages 36 – 49) come a close second. Boomers (ages 50 – 68) and what they call Matures (age 69 and older) also had stress levels that were considered unhealthy in 2012.

The APA (American Psychological Association) 2012 survey showed that Millennials scored a 5.4 out of 10. Some stress can create motivation and energy – the researchers consider a stress level of 3.6 to be healthy. A later survey by the APA in 2015 showed that the stress level for Millennials had risen to 5.5, with Gen Xers at 5.4, 4.5 for Baby Boomers and 3.5 for Matures. The only good news is that the Matures’ stress level is in the healthy range.

most stressed out age

Stress-Levels-by-Age---Women-&-men-chartPix credit: APA 2015

High stress levels cause both mental and physical health problems. High blood pressure, irritability, anxiety, anger, lack of motivation, depression, insomnia and engaging in bad health choices like smoking and drinking have all been linked to high stress. These mental and physical health issues can cause people to make bad decisions, impair the immune and cardiovascular systems, impair our DNA and block creativity.

The APA study showed that not only do Millennials have the highest stress levels of all the generations, but they are less able to manage it than any of the other generations. Women report more stress than men and the gap has been increasing since 2007. More women than men reported lying awake at night from worry (51% vs. 32% of men).

Why are stress levels high?

All the generations report money and financial worries as being the largest causes of stress. Baby Boomers are coping with the major life changes of kids leaving home, aging and dying parents and retirement. Millennials struggle with a tough job market, high student loans, marriage, new babies and new homes. There is also a theory that having too much choice is stressful. Millennials have been encouraged to follow their dreams and choose a job that makes them happy. In a 2015 article, Psychology Today theorized that Baby Boomers encouraged their Millennial children to believe that the sky was the limit. Research has shown, however, that too much choice can make people unhappy. Millennials can become overwhelmed and paralyzed with too much choice. Too much choice can make people second-guess their decisions and obsess over the alternatives.  A quote from the study sums it up: “Thus, while most believe choice contributes to our happiness, too much of it paralyzes us. The overwhelming response to our freedom is, “What if I make the wrong decision?”  It’s a phenomenon called FOBO (Fear of Better Option).

How to reverse high stress levels:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Make time with friends a priority
  • Don’t skip meals
  • Limit coffee to one cup a day
  • Get regular exercise
  • Limit time spent on tech devices
  • Set work boundaries and protect personal time
  • Have quiet, alone time to meditate or do 4-7-8 breathing
  • Consider including some form of spirituality in your life

See our earlier articles about reversing stress:

4-7-8 Breathing

Yoga is the Poetry of Movements

Breathe In, Breathe Out (Meditation)

Forbes has their own views on the subject of stressed millennials.