If paying the bills and putting food on the
table put adults' nerves on edge, just imagine how today's overscheduled,
frequently tested teenagers must feel.
Adolescents reported stress levels during
the school year that surpassed those of adults, according to the American
Psychological Association's latest Stress in America survey.
The survey, based on a Harris
Interactive poll, is thought to be the first to focus on how stress is
affecting the nation's adolescents. It included more than 1,000 teens and
nearly 2,000 adults.
A vicious circle
The findings suggest that teens' sleeping
and exercise habits feed into their stress levels and the stress affects their
health habits, creating a vicious circle, said Norman Anderson, CEO and
executive vice president of the American Psychological Association.
"Those who experience high levels of
stress tend to report that they exercise less and don't sleep as well,
which feeds back into increasing their stress," Anderson said during a news conference. "Conversely, those who say they exercise on a
regular basis and get a good night's sleep show a decrease in stress."
Another "alarming" finding:
"Teens don't appear to realize the impact stress has on their physical and
mental health," Anderson said.
More than half of teens think stress has a
slight or no impact, yet many reported symptoms of stress, the survey found. 40%
said they feel irritable or angry and 36 percent said they feel tired.
What's more, the survey suggested that
teens are poised to become even more stressed as they enter adulthood.
31% said their stress levels increased in
the past year, and 34 percent said they think their stress will increase in the
coming year. Only 16 percent said their stress levels declined in the past year.
stress symptoms as adults
The teens in the survey also reported many
of the same stress symptoms as adults, such as feeling irritable, angry,
nervous and anxious, or lying awake at night. Nearly three-quarters of the
teens reported more than one symptom of stress in the past month, the survey
Katherine Nordal, the APA's executive
director for professional practice, said during the news conference that school
was the most common source of stress for teens. "Getting into a good
college and deciding what to do after high school was also a significant
stressor for about 69 percent of teens," she said.
Teens' financial concerns for their
families also ranked among the top stressors.
"Children learn what they live, so I
think that when there's a lot of stress in the household in regard to financial
concerns, that certainly it bleeds down to children as well," Nordal said.
Other findings- Teens reported sleeping just 7.4 hours on school nights and 8.1
hours on non-school nights -- far less than the 8.5 to 9.25 hours recommended
by the National Sleep Foundation.
- One in five teens reported exercising less than once a week or not
- Nearly a third of teens said they eat to manage stress, while 23
percent reported skipping a meal due to stress.
- Anderson said parents can help teens by recognizing their stress
levels and modeling good stress-management behaviours, such as eating a healthy
diet and taking time to exercise.
- Parents also need to stay plugged in to their teenagers' lives by
taking every opportunity to communicate with them, Nordal said.
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