Generation stress: Millennials, women, low-income suffer highest levels of stress

Reuters / Tim Sharp
While overall stress among Americans is down since the beginning of the Great Recession, stress has stayed at high levels high or even risen among some, including the young, females, and those making below $50,000 a year, according to a new survey.

The American Psychological Association (APA)’s 2014 Stress in America survey found that money is the top source of stress in America. Lower-income adults – defined by the APA as making less than $50,000 a year – were twice as likely as those making above $50,000 to say they feel stressed about finances all the time, 36 percent to 18 percent.

Average stress levels overall are down -- coming in at 4.9 on a 10-point scale as opposed to 6.2 in 2007. Yet recessionary impacts remain, as “stress is not going down as much for women, for people with low incomes, for young adults, or for people who are parents,” said Norman Anderson, APA’s CEO.

The younger the demographic, the more stress was reported. Millennials, ages 18 to 35, said they felt most economic pressure, followed by those of Generation X.

Millennials reported a stress level of 5.5 out of 10 and were the most likely demographic to say their stress level went up in the past year, as they have come of age during a time of tight job prospects, stagnant wages, staggering debt, heightened retirement age, a federal health care law structured on their backs, and a precarious future for government-run institutions like Medicare and Social Security.

“Where Millennials are concerned, we know that the cost of education is pretty high in this country, and student debt is higher,” says Katherine Nordal, APA's executive director of Professional Practice. “The job market until recently has also been problematic.”

Three-quarters of millennials and Gen X-ers said money was a significant source of stress in the past year, while 64 percent of Americans overall said the same thing.

Meanwhile, women said their stress levels went up overall, and they reported more stress around money than men. In fact, the stress gap between men and women has widened since 2010. Thirty percent of women said they felt stress about money all or most of the time compared to 21 percent of men.

The stress gap in the US has widened along with the wealth gap. Lower-income Americans said their stress level was a 5.2 out of 10, while higher-income Americans said their stress level was 4.7 out of 10. In 2007, both groups said their level was a 6.2.

READ MORE: ‘National moral disgrace’: Over 1 in 5 US children on food stamps & living in poverty

Parents with children under age 18 said their overall stress level was a 5.7 out of 10, while 34 percent said their stress went up in the past year.

Parents and millennials said that attaining essential goods was a somewhat or very significant source of stress – 58 percent and 57 percent, respectively, as opposed to 44 percent for all Americans.

Spending time online was the most popular way Americans said they coped with stress. Especially millennials, at 67 percent, said that was their preferred way to handle anxiety, followed by lower-income households and women, at 58 and 57 percent, respectively. Watching television was the next most popular option, and millennials led that category as well.