Stress and Stressors in America

The level and sources of stress among the American population have kept growing. Stress is rampant across all age groups and generations. It is not just the personal problems that are causing stress but a large number of stressors are common and unrelated to people’s personal lives. While stress has kept growing, people also acknowledge that they are unable to do enough to manage their stress. Stress arises from several sources including complex lifestyles and difficulties in personal relationships but it is also arising from changing social dynamics.

Apart from economic and financial reasons behind stress, rising crime and other social and global issues are also making stress grow.  The result is rise in stress, depression and suicides. Sexual assault has also been found to be a significant stressor. Research shows the level of stress is higher among the millennials and Gen Z. Due to rising complexities, and growth in causes of stress, the common coping mechanisms fail to produce significant results. Money and work are significant stressors but apart from them personal debt as well as discrimination are also adding to the stress  level of American people. 

American Psychological Association’s 12th Annual ‘Stress in America’ survey conducted in August 2018 showed that the young adult population of America is facing the highest level of stress and is also the most likely to seek professional help.  APA conducted its 12th Annual Survey online with the help of Harris Poll among 3,548 respondents aged 18+ and 300 teens aged between 15 and 17. 

Gun Violence Causing Stress Among Young Adults and Their Parents.

 Safety is a significant concern and a source of stress for the Gen Z. Rising cases of Gun Violence are giving rise to insecurity and stress among the GenZ Youth.   The cases of mass shootings and school shootings have created an environment of fear in American schools. For as many as 75% of the young adult respondents, mass shootings are a significant cause of stress and for nearly 72%, school shootings cause stress. Around 58% of the GenXers and Baby boomers also find mass shootings to be a significant cause of stress.  The chances of mass shootings also create stress among these people. 

 Around 70% of parents are always concerned about mass shootings and around 74% about school shootings. Schools have adopted security measures against mass shootings and school shootings. However, that has not done enough to allay the fears of parents or students. Around 34% of parents feel that their stress has reduced after their school adopted security measures whereas around 30% think that nothing has changed even with the security measures and 36% of them think that this has only added to there stress and insecurity.

Political climate of US a source of stress for the Gen Z

The political climate of America is also a significant cause of stress among the people. Particularly, it is the Gen Z that finds it confusing and stressful. National concerns like gun control are also a source of stress for the Gen Z. They think the issues of national concern are important but when it comes to voting only nearly half of those aged 18-21 are likely to go for voting. Moreover, the issues in news are more likely to be a source of stress for the Gen Z than the adults. The deportation of immigrants and migrant families has caused the Gen Z a lot of stress. They are also the least likely of all generations to say that they are in a good mental state. However, they are more likely than the others to seek help on mental issues. Only 45% of the GenZ are likely to say that  they have good or excellent mental health versus 56% millennial whereas 37% of them have received or are likely to receive help compared to 35% millennial. The percentage of older adults in good mental health is comparatively much higher and those willing to seek help much lower. 

Personal Problems Increasing Stress: Money, Debt, Housing

Apart from the social and national problems causing stress among the Gen Z, their personal problems are also making life stressful for them. Money is also a significant stressor in the personal lives of the Gen Z. These are the common stressors for Gen Z  and the adults. Around 81 percent of the Gen  Z cite money as a significant source of stress and 77 percent of them say the same about work.  Nearly 63 percent of those in the 15 to 17 age group cite that the lack of significant income in their families is a major cause of stress for them. 

Personal debt and lack of housing stability are also major causes of stress for more than 30 percent of them. Close to thirty percent also cite that hunger or not getting enough to eat is making life stressful for them. Certain specific issues are specifically making life stressful for the Gen Z of color. Personal debt and housing instability is a significant source of stress for around 40 percent of the Gen Z of color whereas only around 30 percent of their white peers cite personal debt as a cause of stress. Less than 25 percent of the white Gen Z cite housing instability as a cause of stress. Hunger is also a significant source of stress for a larger percentage of the Gen Z of color compared to the white Gen Z. 

Drugs and Alcohol Affecting Stress Levels Across Gen Z

Another important source of stress for the Gen Z is the opioid crisis. Nearly 40 percent of Gen Z and adults say that the opioid and heroin crisis in USA is a significant source of stress for them. Around half of the Gen Z know at least one person with drugs or alcohol addiction. A smaller percentage (around 7 percent) say that they have been told they too have an addiction problem.  Finding help in such a case is a challenge. A quarter of the Gen Z think they would not know where to seek help if they had a similar problem and around 35 percent think that they cannot get help for a family member or friend diagnosed with substance abuse problem. 

Social Media and Stress

Managing stress is in itself a stressor for many from the Gen Z. Only around a half of them think they are able to manage their stress well whereas a quarter think that managing stress requires more efforts. Around 75 percent of them think they need more emotional support for managing stress. Social media is a source of support for around 55 percent but a large proportion feels that it has a negative effect on them. 45 percent feel like being judged and around 38 percent feel bad about themselves because of social media use. Social media is a major part of their lives but the Gen Z has mixed feelings about it. 

Stress Level Across Generations

Overall, while the Gen Z feels high level of stress, it is not the only stressed generation. The other generations are also feeling stressed. As per the survey, the overall average stress level across all the generations was 4.9 on a scale of 10. The Gen Z, GenX and the millennials had stress levels higher than the average whereas the other generations had stress levels lower than average. Of the former three, it is the millennials reporting the highest stress level. Stress level among the millennials was the highest at 5.7 followed by the Gen Z at 5.3 and the Gen X at 5.1 on a scale of 10.  The baby boomers and older adults have significantly lower stress levels at 4.1 and 3.3 respectively on the same scale.  The older adults have tolerable stress level. The threshold of tolerable or healthy stress level has risen significantly from 3.7 in 2017 to 3.9 in 2019.  However, for most of Americans (around 64%) work and money are among the biggest sources of stress. Health related concerns are also significant source of stress for a large proportion of the adults. 

The site of the nation and its political environment are also similar stressors for the Americans. Millennials feel the highest stressed when thinking about the nation whereas the older adults have lowest stress levels in this area. More than 60% of Americans find the current political climate stressful and more than 50% think it is the absolutely lowest point in the history of the nation.  The number of Americans who feel stressed thinking of the nation’s future has also risen a lot. The number of such people grew from 63% in 2017 to 69% in 2018. While there is a lot of stress among the Americans about the present and the future of the nation, a lot of them (around 75%) are also very hopeful about their futures. Discrimination has also been identified to be a significant source of stress for American people; the highest for the Black people, followed by Hispanic and then the white people. In case of adults around 1 of five think they cannot manage their stress well whereas around 3 of five think they can. Friends are the best source of emotional support for managing stress followed by spouses, family members and parents. However, despite all those sources of emotional support more than 50% of Americans needed extra emotional support in the previous year. 

The 2018 Stress in America survey that Harris Poll conducted on the behalf of APA brought several important facts regarding level of ‘Stress in America’ to light.  It showed that Stress level among the younger generations is higher compared to the older generations. The survey also showed that work and money are significant sources of stress but a large number of Americans are also stressed due to hunger, housing problems as well as discrimination. Personal problems are significant stressors for Americans but so are social and political problems. Millennials and Gen Z feel stressed about the current political climate and gun violence. Managing stress is complex and around a quarter report they find it difficult. Overall, the survey shows that stress is a trouble affecting all generations but the younger generations are feeling the most stressed.

Abhijeet Pratap

I have studied Marketing and English Literature and like to write on topics in Business management, Marketing, literature, latest technologies and other areas. I also like to spend my time learning coding.