Are Teens Adopting Adults’ Stress Habits?

Introduction

Teens report stress levels far higher than what they believe is healthy.Despite our understanding that stress takes a toll on our physical and mental health, this year’s Stress in America™ survey reveals a portrait of American stress that is high and often managed in ineffective ways, ultimately affecting our health and well-being.

But the most concerning news is not what’s happening to adults.

Survey findings suggest that the patterns of unhealthy stress behaviors we see in adults may begin developing earlier in our lives. Many American teens report experiencing stress at unhealthy levels, appear uncertain in their stress management techniques and experience symptoms of stress in numbers that mirror adults’ experiences.1 These findings are especially sobering when paired with research that suggests physical activity, nutrition and lifestyle — all wellness factors the survey revealed to be affected by stress in teens and adults — not only contribute to adolescents’ health now, but also to habits that can be sustained into adulthood.2

While the United States spends more than any other country on health care and leads the world in the quality and quantity of its health research, these trends do not add up to better health outcomes.3 The U.S. experiences poorer health outcomes than many other high-income countries, even while spending more money per person on health care. Compared to peers in these countries, Americans have less access to primary care, consume the most calories per person and are more likely to live in environments designed around automobiles. Research suggests that these factors contribute to the nation’s poor health outcomes and survey findings show that stress influences our health behaviors, setting up teens and adults alike for potential chronic illnesses that affect quality of life and the country’s health care expenditure.4

While no one can avoid all stressful situations, Stress in America portrays a picture of high stress and ineffective coping mechanisms that appear to be ingrained in our culture, perpetuating unhealthy lifestyles and behaviors for future generations.

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