Meet "Generation Stress"

Jun 5, 2017

Millennials, christened by some as “The Next-Greatest Generation,” appear to be straining under the pressure.

While many struggle to pay off student debt, work multiple jobs and often crisscross the nation to advance their careers, data indicates that this generation is stressed-out. A study by the American Psychological Association suggests that no other generation is feeling more stress than millennials, earning this group the nickname “Generation Stress.” 

“When you’re at a time in your life when you’re still working on your identity, when you’re still working on

Michael Poulin, associate professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo

your career and what is going to be or where it is going to be, when you are working on your romantic prospects and plans for your family -- when all of that is up in the air, you know that is an inherently stressful situation,” said Michael Poulin, an associate professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo.

So-called millennials are typically defined as being in the early 20s to their mid 30s. The APA study reported that 82% have experienced stress in a given month, affecting their overall health. Everyone suffers from stress, but what’s causing millennials to be the most stressed? WBFO hit the streets and talked with some millennials. 

“I can’t speak for myself but I know a lot of people are concerned with economics, job market and I think a lot of kids are saddled in student debt,” said West Seneca resident Peter Veech.

“I think a lot of people went to college without realizing what they were signing up for as far as what they were going to come out with it.”

Amherst resident Jessica Krol said the pressure to succeed can be quite stressful.

“It’s really that strive to be the best and to really make something for themselves apart from who was before them. Or a lot of kids or millennials I suppose are sometimes the first in their families to get that far and they really want to prove that.”

And then there’s the workplace. In a survey by Lifeworks, 90% of millennials suffered from stress at work, with a third reporting that such stress occurs on a regular basis.

“I guess depending on the job, maybe…you don’t connect with [a boss] as well as you like, or there’s not as good as communication as there should be,” said Cheektowaga resident Charles Hathaway. ”Speaking from my own experience, I mean every once in a while, you get stressed out at work, but it’s not anything where it’s going to affect me long term.”

Research shows that millennials have a stress rank of 5 point 4 out of 10, levels of 3 point 6 are considered healthy. Veech believes reducing stress begins with the individual.

“I think one of the best ways to reduce anxiety is just you have to understand that it is an imperfect world we live in, and stress and hardship is just a part of everyday life. Even if you’re a millionaire sitting somewhere, you have problems that nobody knows about.”

Although many millennials cope with financial debt, juggling multiple jobs, overprotective parenting and other challemges, could we really say millennials are more stressed compared to other generations?

“Well it didn’t used to be the case where you moved all over the country. You kind of stayed in one place. What religion to have or what political affiliation to have that was mostly given to you by your upbringing. What social circles to live in, even career prospects were even much more delineated by societal expectations than they are today,” said Poulin.

Stress and anxiety can have negative impacts on health, psychological well-being and lifestyle  choices. For example, data shows that 41% of millennials have eaten too much as a result of anxiety. The APA suggests that listening to music, exercising, or even watching TV can ease stress.   Poulin believes socializing can be a powerful anecdote.

“If your strategy is to watch TV or if your strategy is to play videogames or something like that…that’s a very different way of coping with stress than by going out and being with other people. There’s a lot of research that suggest that the best way  -- the best resource we have for managing stress is being social, is participating in groups, is thinking about other people and potentially even thinking about other people’s problems instead of only your own.”