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Are Teens more Stressed than Adults? Survey

First Posted: Feb 11, 2014 10:08 AM EST

Many adults may shrug off teenage angst as a temporary annoyance. After all, what do teenagers really know about the real world when their parents take care of them, for the most part? Yet a recent survey regarding U.S. teens shows that high levels of stress for many in high school may be a bit more concerning than a cloudy day (metaphorically speaking, of course.)

The survey found that more than a quarter (27 percent) said they experienced extreme stress during the school year, while it was cut down to 13 percent in the summer. Thirty-four percent of participants also expected stress to increase in the coming year.

The Stress in America survey from the Washington, D.C.-based American Psychological Association showed that stressors ranged from a ride group of areas, including homework  to school activities to friendship, family and work.

In fact, findings showed that over 1,000 teens and close to 2,000 adults suggested that unhealthy behaviors associated with stress could start early and continue on into adulthood, according to USA Today.

The news organization notes that as 21 percent of adults report "extreme" stress levels, many teens could be setting themselves up for high-stress that may result in future chronic health conditions or chronic stress.

"Our study this year gives us a window in looking at how early these patterns might begin," said clinical psychologist Norman Anderson, the association's CEO, via the Montgomery Advertiser. "The patterns of stress we see in adults seem to be occurring as early as the adolescent years - stress-related behaviors such as lack of sleep, lack of exercise, poor eating habits in response to stress."

According to the survey, which was taken in August, teens' average stress levels were around 5.8 out of 10 during the school year, and approximately 4.6 in the past month. For adults, they reported average levels of 5.1 in the past month.

Findings suggest that nearly 40 percent of teens report feeling irritable or angry while 36 percent are nervous or anxious. A third say that stress makes them sad, depressed or overwhelmed, with teen girls more likely than teen boys to suffer from the problem. Women are also more likely to suffer from stress nationally than men.

However, some officials question whether stress could be an excuse for certain negative behaviors portrayed by this age group.

"It's hard to know" if all the negative effects teens report are "really based on stress," said clinical psychologist Jonathan Abramowitz, of Chapel Hill, N.C. "It's hard enough for anyone to really explain why they do certain things, like procrastinating. Give a kid any excuse - it may or may not have anything to do with stress."

However, other officials also stress that for confidential surveys, most teens are honest and forthcoming regarding stressful information. To add to that, the Jason Foundation notes that, based on statistics from 2010, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24 with stress being a primary factor, and for colleage-age youth, 12 to 18, it is the third leading cause of death.

"If you look at teen suicide statistics, stress is one of the things that leads to suicide attempts," said Kristen Race, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., author of the book Mindful Parenting, via the news organization. "It's incredibly important to have the downtime, and it makes sense to have a dramatic shift in the summer. They sleep more in the summer, and that's going to enormously increase their ability to think positively. "

What do you think?

For more information regarding the survey, check out American Psychological Association's website. 

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