The recent Stress in America survey, from the American Psychological Association PA, shows that, across generations, younger Americans report experiencing the most stress and the least relief, reporting higher stress levels than older generations and say they are not managing it well. All generations say they experience stress at levels higher than they believe is healthy, but Matures are closest to bringing their stress levels in line with their definition of a healthy stress level. Stress has increased for a considerable number of Americans, regardless of age.
The difference between Matures’ stress levels and their perception of healthy stress is 0.7 points, compared with 1.4 points for Millennials, 1.6 points for Gen Xers and 1.3 points for Boomers. 39% of Millennials say their stress has increased in the last year, compared to 36% of Gen Xers, 33% of Boomers and 29% of Matures.
Average Stress Level Comparison To Healthy Level (1= No Stress; 10= High Level)
Personal Stress Assessment (Previous Month)
Perceived Healthy Stress Level
Source: APA, February 2012 (On a scale of 1-10)
Millennials and Gen Xers are most likely to say that they are stressed by work, money and job stability, while Boomers and Matures are more likely to be concerned with health issues affecting their families and themselves.
Work is a somewhat or significant stressor for 76% of Millennials, 65% of Gen Xers, 62% of Boomers and just 39% of Matures. This may be because a lower proportion of Matures are working (8% are employed full-time, compared with 39% of Boomers, 59% of Gen Xers and 33% of Millennials). However, job stability is a source of stress for slightly more Gen Xers than Millennials (60% vs. 53%).
Personal health concerns are reported most often by Matures as a source of stress (61% vs. 51% for Millennials and Boomers and 46% for Gen Xers). However, significantly more Boomers report that health problems affecting their families are sources of stress
Each generation experiences negative consequences of stress, but Millennials and Gen Xers are most likely to say that they engage in unhealthy behaviors because of stress and experience symptoms of stress:
Given their higher-than-average stress levels, says the report, Millennials and Gen Xers have made it a goal to reduce their stress. But both are falling short in their ability to manage stress well. In the last five years, 62% of Millennials and 63% of Gen Xers have tried to reduce their stress, compared with 59% of Boomers and 50% of Matures.
While the generations agree that managing stress is extremely or very important, the ability to meet stress management goals seems to come with age, says the report. Only 29% of Millennials, 35% of Gen Xers and 38% of Boomers say they are doing an excellent or very good job of managing their stress, compared with 50% of Matures. In fact, since 2010, the percentage of Millennials who have said they are doing a good job at stress management has decreased.
How Generations Manage Stress (% of Respondents by Category)
Exercise or walk
Listen to music
Spend time with friends or family
Go to church or religious service
Source: APA, February 2012
Even though the preferred stress management technique across generations is exercising or walking, younger Americans are more likely than Boomers and Matures to engage in unhealthy behaviors like eating, drinking alcohol and smoking to manage stress.
For additional information please visit the APA here.