While an overarching study of stressed out teens has yet to be compiled, it is easy to estimate that most every teen in the United States has felt some sort of stress, and many are stressed out. And as an indication of the overlooked nature of teen stress it is estimated that around 10 percent of all teens suffer from an anxiety disorder.
5 Main Stressors Causing Teen Stress
In Baltimore, teens were interviewed as part of a study “Confronting Teen Stress, Meeting the Challenge in Baltimore City”, which looked at levels of teen stress. The following is some of the results.
- School work (68%)
- Parents (56%)
- Friends’ problems (52%)
- Romantic relationships (48%)
- Drugs in the neighborhood (48%)
The five sources of stress most often experienced for the youth in the study were slightly different and included:
- School work (78%)
- Parents (68%)
- Romantic relationships (64%)
- Friends’ problems (64%)
- Younger siblings (64%)
How Teens Manage Stress
The study also looked at how the teenagers coped with their stress. For boys approximately
- 25% avoided or refused to deal with their stress
- 23% sought ways to distract themselves away from their stress
- 17% sought support
- 35% actively tried to reduce their stress.
On the other hand, when it came to the girls, approximately
- 19% avoided or refused to deal with their stress
- 14 % sought ways to distract themselves away from their stress
- 22% sought support
- 45% actively tried to remove or reduce their stress
In summary, boys more often used the tools of avoidance and distraction while girls looked for support and actively tried to reduce their stress. Girls also said they experienced more stress then boys, stemming largely from their relationships with boys and friendships with girls. Boys attributed their stress to authority figures, (i.e. teachers). The study suggested that stress management programs should separate girls and boys for some of the activities, since their answers were so different. The study also recommended that programs should teach girls and boys how to react in a healthy manner towards stress. Avoidance and aggression can be unhealthy while exercise and keeping a journal concerning your stress are healthy outlets.
Teen Stress vs Adult Stress
Another study was conducted in August 2013 by the American Psychological Association comparing teen stress to adult stress, the findings are interesting.
- During the school year teens rate their stress at 5.8 out of 10
- Adults average reported stress level is 5.1 out of 10
- During summer teens reported a stress level of 4.6
Effects of Teen Stress
- 31% of teens reported feeling overwhelmed
- 30% reported feeling sad or depressed, as a result of their stress
- 36% of teens report feeling tired
- 23% report skipping a meal due to stress
Teen Stress Over Time
- 16% of teens say their stress has declined in the past year
- 31% say their stress has increased over the past year
- 34% believe their stress will increase in the coming year
- 42% of teens do not believe they are doing enough to manage their stress
- 13% say they never set aside time to manage stress
More and more cities and school districts are starting to look at teen stress. Some are developing programs for teachers and families to help determine stressful situations and how to teach healthy stress relieving tactics. There are resources online (please see the below sources for some ideas to get started) to help parents, teachers and teenagers themselves learn more about their stress and how to work through it.
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Helping Teenagers with Stress, [online].
- Center for Adolescent Health, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “Confronting Teen Stress, Meeting the Challenge in Baltimore City,” [pdf online].
- National Institute of Mental Health, Anxiety Disorders, [online].
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Feeling Frazzled, Stress and What to do About It,” [pdf online].”
- American Psychological Association Survey Shows Teen Stress Rivals That of Adults”, apa.org [online].