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Study Shows Teen Stress Levels Higher Than Adults

Being a teenager is stressful — that’s no secret. But according to a report released this month by the American Psychological Association, U.S. teens are even more stressed out than their parents.

During the school year, teens report stress levels that exceed what they believe to be healthy. On a 10-point scale, teens experience a stress level of about 5.8, while adults said their levels sit at 5.1.

Nicole Quinlan, a pediatric psychologist at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., said social media is thought to be one of the biggest stressors for teens because it places them in the social circle 24/7.

“They may be exposed to more of those very things that are stressing them out in a way that a generation or two ago would not have had to deal with that,” she said.

Stress levels continue to be high even when the students aren’t in school. Teens said their stress levels fall to about 4.6 during the summer, while 3.9 is believed to be healthy.

Of the 1,018 teens surveyed, 31 percent report feeling overwhelmed and 30 percent felt depressed as a result of stress. More than one-third of teens reported fatigue and about 23 percent said they skipped a meal because of stress.

But high stress levels aren’t the biggest concern for psychologists including Quinlan. She said teens aren’t able to cope with their high levels of stress in a healthy way.

According to the survey, 54 percent of teens said stress had little to no impact on their physical health and 52 percent of teenagers said their mental health was not affected by stress, while 39 percent of adults said stress had no impact on their physical and mental health.

“This is a big problem not just for their day-to-day functioning and how they’re getting along with friends and families and being irritable and snapping,” Quinlan said, “but also, for their health and that’s what is concerning.”

The survey found that people living with high stress are less likely to sleep well, exercise and eat healthy foods.

And according to the survey, teenage stress levels are only getting worse. Only 16 percent of teens said their stress levels declined from the previous year, while 1-in-3 believe their stress will increase the following year.

Quinlan said things such as sleep, deep breathing exercises and yoga are just some of the ways teens can reduce stress.

“Teens who are experiencing significant levels of stress and have tried these techniques and have talked to family or friends and feel like they need additional help managing it, (should reach) out for help from a psychologist who can work with them on finding more successful ways to manage stress,” she said.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."
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