Nearly one-third of teens are experiencing rising levels of stress, although the youngsters are more likely than adults to underestimate the potential negative consequences on their mental and physical wellbeing, according to a national report by the American Psychological Association (APA).
The stress mirrors that experienced by adults, and the inability of many teens to cope appears to directly affect nearly every facet of their lives – from neglecting school to losing their temper and withdrawing from social activities.
The APA report – titled Stress in America: Are Teens Adopting Adults’ Stress Habits? – examined data from an online survey of more than 1,000 teenagers and nearly 2,000 adults. Among the teens surveyed, 31% reported feeling overwhelmed, 30% felt depressed or sad, 36% percent reported being fatigued and 23% said they skipped a meal due to stress.
The report noted that individuals who have long-term exposure to heightened stress levels may develop a weakened immune system and increased risk of heart disease.
Teens must be given access to improved health education and other forms of support “in order to break this cycle of stress and unhealthy behaviors,” Norman Anderson, the APA’s chief executive officer, said in a February 2014 statement.
The study also found that teens’ stress levels during the school year topped the average stress level reported by adults (5.8 vs. 5.1 on a 10-point scale). Other highlights of the APA report:
Despite these findings, more than 50% of teens said their stress level has minimal or no effect on their body or mind. By comparison, about 40% of adults said their mental health and physical health were slightly impacted by stress or not affected at all.
As part of its report, the American Psychological Association provided a series of tips to help teens manage stress. The recommended measures include: engaging in physical activities, particularly those involving other people; getting nine hours of sleep a night; pursuing hobbies or volunteer work; and talking about stress with a parent or teacher.
“Everyone is affected by stress at one time or another and it can feel overwhelming,” the APA website states. “With the right tools, though, you can learn to manage stress before it takes a toll on your health.”