Stress and teens: How it’s affecting their everyday life

By: Alexandra Contreras

More and more teens are showing high levels of stress and health problems according to a study done by the American Psychological Association (APA). Today, many of them are facing health issues due to the constant stress that they are going through. The study showed that teens are overwhelmed or depressed because of their high stress levels. Eventually, this affects the way that they perform at school, work, and even at home.

So, why are teens getting so stressed out? The same study determined that at least 83% of teens think that school has a significant impact on their stress level. 10% of teens are increasingly receiving lower grades, but 40% admit to neglecting their responsibilities at home. Finally, 21% said the same for job and school-related duties.

APA also states that since teens are unaware of the negative impact that stress has on their mental as well as physical health, they ignore it. Many teens say and feel that stress has minimal to no influence on their lives, but the report shows that they experience the same symptoms as adults who suffer from high levels of stress. These symptoms include feeling nervous, tired, irritable, and anxious.

Dante Mendoza, a junior at John Jay, said that working and going to school is very stressful for him. He works two jobs and attends school full-time. His schedule includes classes in the morning, working part-time until nine at night, then going to his overnight security job.

“It got to the point where I had to pick between school and work. Unfortunately school was not paying my bills, so I had to take the semester off. It was tough because my plan was to always finish in four years, but things happen,” he said.

The same reports show that, for more than 1,000 teens, they show early stages of stress symptoms that can follow them through adulthood. The survey done by the APA states, “With teens mirroring adults’ high-stress lives, they are potentially setting themselves up for a future of chronic stress and chronic illness.”

In the long run, these high levels of stress in teens can make their immune systems weaker as well as exhaust their bodies. Viral infections are more easily attained, in addition to inflammation, which is known as the link to the development of cardiovascular disease.

According to Sharon Jayson, a writer for USA Today, and clinical psychologist Norman Anderson, stress that is usually seen in adults is now being seen in young adults. In response to this, things like “lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits” begin to happen.

“Stress affects our body in different ways,” said Marian Cortes, a social worker at St. Lawrence Community Health Center in the Bronx, New York. “Stress can produce a number of health issues including anxiety, insomnia, headaches and even muscle pain.”

In the APA study, when teens were asked how they respond to their increasing stress levels, the results varied only slightly. While 32% said that they cry and suffer from headaches, 30% have feelings of sadness and even depression. 26% have had changes in their sleeping patterns and 23% saw changes in their eating habits. Lastly, while 36% constantly feel tired, the same amount of teens actually have episodes of insomnia.

Although these statistics represent adolescents as a whole, females have been shown to have a higher stress levels than males. On a scale of 1 to 10, teen female stress levels averaged at a 5.1, while teen males were in the 4.1 region.

“I never had to work and go to school at the same time,” said Maury Mayen, a freshman at Bronx Community College. “It was okay once I started, but now it’s like I get overwhelmed fast and I don’t feel like I have time for anything. On my days off, I just want to sleep all day. When it’s a lot going on I randomly cry… honestly it’s a lot sometimes.”

According to the APA, in order to help these teens from continuing to suffer this way, we need to create opportunities in their everyday life. We also need to teach them about the dangers of stress and the healthy ways to deal with it. This will help them in the long run, so they don’t have to deal with shorter lifespans, a variety of illnesses, and health issues.

“We need to give them the skills to take control over their lives in healthy ways and allow them to grow into healthy adults,” said the APA.