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Millennial Stress College Years and Beyond

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A few weeks ago, the nation and blogosphere was abuzz with news about the stressful lives of Generation Y (the Millennials).

Much of the discussion centered around a study that was conducted and released last month by the American Psychological Association. The report was the result of an online survey where more than 2,020 adults older than 18 years of age were asked about the level of stress in their lives. According to the report, with the exception of Millennials (those 18-33 years of age), all other age groups reported that the level of stress they endured on a daily basis had decreased.

An article by Sharon Jayson in the February 7, 2013 issue of USA Today, reported the following findings:

  • 39 percent of Millennials stated that their stress level has increased in the past year;
  • 52 percent stated that their level of stress was so great that it kept them up at night;
  • Large numbers of Millennials were told by a health care provider that they suffered from depression or had anxiety disorder.

 

Asked for reasons as to why they were anxiety-ridden, the following reasons and percentages were listed:

  • 76 percent were stressed out about work;
  • 73 percent fretted over money;
  • 59 percent obsessed over relationships’
  • 56 percent were faced with intense family responsibilities;
  • 55 percent were freaked out over the current state of the economy.

 

Sad to say, these statistics are indeed alarming, but not all that surprising. Moreover, they do not include those young people who have become so frustrated and demoralized that they have stopped looking for work.

As a college professor who teaches many students in this age group, I know firsthand the struggles — financial, emotional, academic, psychological and otherwise. Over the past few years, I have noticed an uptick in the number of students who have stopped by my office and told me that they are under a lot of stress, both undergraduate and graduate students. A few have said that they had sought counseling to cope with the dilemmas facing them. One student said that he decided to apply to graduate school due to his inability to find a job, to bolster his job prospects, as well as give himself some time from having to immediately pay back his student loans.

The fact is that throughout history, many young people of all generations have faced stressful periods in their lives. The Silent Generation (1925-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and Generation X (1965-1979) all had their trials and tribulations. In fact, in the case of Generation X (my group), during the mid- to late-1990s, the media was constantly discussing how “troubled” “angry” and “disillusioned” we were. The tragic suicide of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain in 1994 further intensified an already ongoing narrative.

That being said, what makes the situation for Millennials so much more acute is the fact that unlike other groups, many Gen Y’ers (not all) have not been able to break into the mainstream workforce at the level that previous generations have been able to do so. The fact is that a notable number of people in their mid- to late-20s have been unable to land a full-time job. This means that they have spent the majority of the first full decade of adulthood unable to work at a job that provides health care, Social Security and other benefits that have been vital ingredients designed to assist millions of Americans in an effort to have a stable and viable life.

The dramatic events of Occupy Wall Street during the fall of 2011 and related protests that galvanized groups of Millennials were examples of the anger, despair and discontent that afflict a large segment of people in their 20s and early-30s. This is a drastic situation that must change. Otherwise, the nation may begin to encounter a group of men and women that can be referred to as “the lost generation.” We can only hope that all of us can work together to address this crisis and move forward accordingly.

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