Stress in Young America: Why the US is on Red Alert


A study conducted over 7 years to measure stress and its impact across America has reported that more young Americans than ever before are suffering from a level of stress considered to be beyond their capacity to cope.

Young Americans were also found to be more likely to deal with stress with negative coping strategies, such as:

  • smoking
  • drinking
  • sleeping
  • overeating

In The American Psychological Association (APA) survey, results showed that the general perception of stress across generations had declined by a total of 1.3, with Americans rating their average stress level at 4.9 instead of 6.2 (in 2007).

More Americans, however, reported stress levels above what they considered to be normal with 1 in 5 Americans rating their stress levels at 8, 9, or 10 where 1 is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress.“


Young people, “Millenials” (18-33) reported the highest levels of stress of all of the age groups, made up of Generation Xers (34-47 years), Boomers (48 to 66 years) and Matures (67 years and older).

With youth unemployment nudging towards double the national average at 13 %, young people were assumed to be the most vulnerable to the economic fallout. 39 % of young adults had reported struggling to pay rent or medical bills, had claimed to have cut back on spending, or reported losing their jobs last year, according to the US Department of Labor.

Generational difference

The generations showed interesting differences in coping with stress. Older generations turned to a God, whereas younger generations took to the shops, demonstrate in the figures below:

Boomers and Matures were more likely to turn to religious services than younger adults:

  • Millennials: 16 %
  • Gen Xers: 19 %
  • Boomers: 23 %
  • Matures: 32 % ,

While younger generations were more likely to shop in response to stress:

Millennials: 19 %,  Gen Xers: 13 %, Boomers: 10 % and Matures: 6 %.

Health Care failings

The report highlighted that a majority of stressed Americans reporting receiving little, if any, support to minimise the effects of stress on their lives.

Although the number of participants reporting positive coping mechanisms, such as listening to music, working out or spending time with family, had increased, 25 % of people turned to negative coping mechanisms.

Millennials and Gen Xers were most likely to say that they engage in unhealthy behaviours because of stress and experience symptoms of stress.

The impact of stress on people’s lives can lead to, or aggravate, a host of physical and mental health problems, including heart disease, digestive problems, sleep problems, depression and obesity. Chronic stress can also affect the immune system.

Highlights: Stress in America

The top sources of stress were:

1. money (69 % )
2. work (65 p% ) 3. the economy (61 %)
4. family responsibilities (57 %)
5. relationships (56 %)
6. family health problems (52 %)
7. personal health concerns (51 %)

Signs of Stress

Approximately seven in ten Americans report that they experience physical or non-physical symptoms of stress, including;

  • irritability or anger (37 % )
  • fatigue (37 % )
  • feeling overwhelmed (35 % )
  • changes in sleeping habits (30 % )

The report concludes that health care has perhaps failed the American population.  Despite over 50 % or participants agreeing that psychological support would be beneficial, only 6 % reported being referred to a mental health professional.

With young people reporting the highest levels of stress, the future looks more difficult to navigate for Millennials than it is for Boomers or  Matures. The young will always be  most vulnerable in times of economic turbulence.


Stress in America.  PDF report –

Guide to help with stress –

Image creative commons licensed (BY-ND) flickr photo by madstreetz:


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