Displaced Youth the Effects of Stress on Young People in the 21st Century

Teenagers and young adults have always been developmentally difficult, with new pressures from peers, academics, and family. However, in a world whose technology is developing and changing almost exponentially, growing up in the 21st century poses new challenges and stressors on the mental health of adolescents and young adults. WIth the competition and cost of a college education increasing every year and finding jobs becoming more and more taxing of a process, rates of depression and anxiety have skyrocketed in teens, matching and even rivaling psychological statistics of adults. American Psychological Association (APA)’s Stress in America survey of 3,500 adults and teens indicated that nearly 31 percent of teens felt overwhelmed or depressed as a result of stress, 36 percent of teens in the study felt tired, and 23 percent reported having skipped a meal in response to stress. This rise in stress level across all age demographics can be partially attributed to America’s emphasis on self-efficacy, according to the same study. Forced to juggle mountainous schedules from ballet to basketball, cheer to cello, young adults are placing even more of a pressure upon themselves to succeed.

Subjection to such high levels of stress can negatively affect psychological development of young people, making them more susceptible to turning to alcohol or drugs later in life, as well as an increased risk of adult depression and anxiety. APA’s study indicates that people aged 18-33 years old experience the highest levels of stress in the country. In comparison, according to a study by Everyday Health, nearly 60 percent of individuals from the “baby boomer” generation have never been diagnosed with a mental health issue, while 52 percent of individuals from Gen Z, those born in the years after 1995, have already been diagnosed with mental health issues, namely depression and anxiety. Research from the CDC’s National Center for Health suggests that recent fears largely prevalent in the news in today are also a source for stress in Generation Z: sexual harassment, family separations, rise in suicide rates. Disenchantment with the current state of issues still has not exhorted young people to vote. The 2018 Harvard IOP Youth Poll indicated that while a growing statistic, still only 54 percent of adults from Generation Z claimed that they planned to vote in the most recent midterm elections. As a result, many individuals are finding difficulty coping with stress and depression, with levels of loneliness being at an all-time high.

A study conducted by CIgna Healthcare interviewing nearly 20,000 Americans indicated that the age demographic most at-risk were the youngest adult generations. According to Cigna, many subjects in the study attributed their loneliness and depression to social media— nearly 45 percent said that it made them feel judged, another 38 percent added that it decreased their self esteem. Dr. Doug Nemecek, Cigna’s chief medical officer of its behavioral health department, states that though these soaring statistics can be attributed to the common coming-of-age periods in an young adult life of transitions and trials, the study still is indicative of how each generation perceives themselves. In the study, subjects of Generation Z attributed loneliness to isolation and reluctance to seek support from peers or professionals. In contrast, subjects from the generation with the lowest rates of loneliness, aged 72 and older, stated that they felt secure in their community should they find the need to seek emotional support. However, an in-depth study by The Guardian indicates that this generation favors authenticity, a large reason why many of the generation signs onto social media in the first place. In a desperate attempt to connect with others and find those who are similar however, the teenagers and young adults of Generation Z further estrange themselves from one another despite their want for interdependence.  

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