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Stress, Anxiety, Depression Higher Among Young Adults

You've heard college-age kids say they are stressed out. Now a new national poll backs that up.

Among Americans ages 18-33, nearly 52 percent say that stress has kept them up at night in the last month, and 39 percent say their stressed increased, according to results of an online Harris Poll conducted for the American Psychological Association released yesterday.

While stress levels are going down among other Americans, those in the Millennial(also known as Gen Y) generation are struggling. On average, survey respondents rate their stress as 4.9 on a 1-10 point scale, but young adults average 5.4.

Diagnosis of depression is also higher among the Millennial (19 percent), compared with Generation Xers, ages 34-47 (14 percent), Baby Boomers (12 percent), and 11 percent for those older than 67.

More Millennials have anxiety disorders (12 percent), compared with Gen X (8 percent), Boomers (7 percent), and 4 percent of the oldest Americans.

In a recent Education Week webinar on life skills and college readiness, high school counselor Susan Strickland in her presentation talked about the challenge in connecting with young Gen Y people born late '80s to 2000) in high school. (Slides available here.)

It's important for educators to understand this new generation so they can better reach these students and help them cope with the stresses of school.

Strickland says that Gen Y students were influenced by their doting parents, grew up being told "everyone is a winner," and trophies for participation were abundant. They often see themselves as equal to adults, are tech savvy, and confident in their abilities. Gen Yers are often socially conscious, image driven, and place a high priority on their personal lives.

Today's young people crave feedback and recognition, yet have difficulty coping with failure and disappointment. This may shed some light on the new stress-level data. Without the patience to wait for rewards and the lack of skills for dealing with conflict, often Gen Yers can feel overwhelmed.

Stickland suggests reaching out to the Millennial generation by using technology and teaching with the end goal in mind: "Don't hide the point." Also, specific skills in conflict resolution and problem-solving need to be conveyed to help these young people cope. Peer mediation, role playing, and scenarios activities are ways to concretely teach these needed life skills.

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