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Teens' Stress Levels Rival Those of Adults: Survey

Top worries include post-graduation choices, financial concerns
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Karen Pallarito

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 11, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- 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 an August 2013 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.

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 they don't sleep as well, which feeds back into increasing their stress," Anderson said during a Tuesday 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. Forty percent 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.

Thirty-one percent said their stress level 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 level declined in the past year.

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 found.

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