The online survey in February was conducted by Harris Interactive Inc., (on behalf of APA) and involved 1,950 adults and 1,018 teens in the U.S.
The findings suggest that unhealthy behaviors tied to stress levels may begin manifesting early in people’s lives. Stress can have a negative impact on healthy behaviors, such as exercising, sleeping, and eating healthy foods.
Teens report that, during the school year, their stress levels go far beyond what they perceive to be healthy (5.8 versus 3.9 on a 10-point scale) and outranks adults’ average reported stress levels (5.8 for teens versus 5.1 for adults).
Even during the summer, teens reported having higher stress levels than what they believed to be healthy (4.6 versus 3.9 on a 10-point scale). Thirty-one percent of teens also reported feeling overwhelmed, and 30 percent reported feeling depressed or sad because of stress. Thirty-six percent of teens reported feeling fatigued or tired, and nearly 23 percent reported skipping a meal due to stress.
Despite the impact that stress appears to have on their lives, teens are more likely than adults to report that their stress levels have only a slight impact, or none at all, on their physical health (54 percent of teens versus 39 percent of adults) or their mental health (52 percent of teens versus 43 percent of adults).
“It is alarming that the teen stress experience is so similar to that of adults. It is even more concerning that they seem to underestimate the potential impact that stress has on their physical and mental health,” said APA CEO and Executive Vice President Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D.
“In order to break this cycle of stress and unhealthy behaviors as a nation, we need to provide teens with better support and health education at school and home, at the community level, and in their interactions with health care professionals.”
Similarly, stress remains a major problem for many adults. Forty-two percent of adults report that their stress levels have increased, while 36 percent say their stress levels have stayed the same over the past five years.
Adults’ average reported stress level is a 5.1 on a 10-point scale, much greater than the level of stress they believe is healthy (3.6).