While an overarching study of stressed out teens has yet to be compiled, it is easy to estimate that most every teen in the United States has felt some sort of stress, and many are stressed out. And as an indication of the overlooked nature of teen stress it is estimated that around 10 percent of all teens suffer from an anxiety disorder.
In Baltimore, teens were interviewed as part of a study "Confronting Teen Stress, Meeting the Challenge in Baltimore City", which looked at levels of teen stress. The following is some of the results. From the study, the five stressors causing the most worry included "school work (68%), parents (56%) friends' problems (52%), romantic relationships (48%), and drugs in the neighborhood (48%)". The five sources of stress most often experienced for the youth in the study included "school work (78%), parents (68%), romantic relationships (64%), friends' problems (64%), and younger siblings (64%).
The study also looked at how the teenagers coped with their stress. For boys approximately
- 25% avoided or refused to deal with their stress,
- 23% sought ways to distract themselves away from their stress,
- 17% sought support, and
- 35% actively tried to reduce their stress.
On the other hand, when it came to the girls, approximately
- 19% avoided or refused to deal with their stress,
- 14 % sought ways to distract themselves away from their stress,
- 22% sought support, and
- 45% actively tried to remove or reduce their stress.
In summary, boys more often used the tools of avoidance and distraction while girls looked for support and actively tried to reduce their stress. Girls also said they experienced more stress then boys, stemming largely from their relationships with boys and friendships with girls. Boys attributed their stress to authority figures, (i.e. teachers). The study suggested that stress management programs should separate girls and boys for some of the activities, since their answers were so different. The study also recommended that programs should teach girls and boys how to react in a healthy manner towards stress. Avoidance and aggression can be unhealthy while exercise and keeping a journal concerning your stress are healthy outlets.
More and more cities and school districts are starting to look at teen stress. Some are developing programs for teachers and families to help determine stressful situations and how to teach healthy stress relieving tactics. There are resources online (please see the below sources for some ideas to get started) to help parents, teachers and teenagers themselves learn more about their stress and how to work through it.
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Helping Teenagers with Stress, [online].
- Center for Adolescent Health, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, "Confronting Teen Stress, Meeting the Challenge in Baltimore City," [pdf online].
- National Institute of Mental Health, Anxiety Disorders, [online].
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Feeling Frazzled, Stress and What to do About It," [pdf online].