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Young People Today More Stressed Out, High-Strung

— A San Diego State University researcher says high school and college students today are more stressed-out and high-strung than ever before.

SDSU Professor Jean Twenge is known for her extensive research about how today's young generation differs from previous generations. In fact, she’s written two books on the subject – Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic.

Her latest research indicates today's high school and college students have higher levels of anxiety and mental health problems compared to young people who lived during the past seven decades. In fact, five to eight times as many young people in 2007 are having problems compared to those in 1938.

Twenge says the increase is linked to cultural shifts which she says place a greater emphasis on shallow values such as money and materialism versus people and relationships.

"Since the 1930s, American culture has placed a lot more emphasis on materialism. Young people are much more likely to say, 'I'm really interested in making a lot of money,'" Twenge said. "That (cultural shift) has happened at the same time of this increase in anxiety and depression. We can't say for sure that one causes the other, but we can say they have happened at the same time."

Twenge says typical symptoms of anxiety include excessive worrying, insomnia and nausea. Depression, anti-social behavior and narcissism are also on the rise based on the findings. Twenge says this research is important for helping everyone to understand the world in which young people live.

"It's tempting to say (young people) have it easy. Well, that doesn't seem to be the case. This shift in our culture toward emphasizing materialism and fame has not served us very well. It's not a good recipe for mental health at any age."

Twenge's conclusions are based on responses from a psychological scale called the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory which as been in use since the 1930s. Her findings are published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review.

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Avatar for user 'animal619'

animal619 | January 13, 2010 at 11:33 p.m. ― 7 years, 2 months ago

As a young college student I do not agree with this at all. I believe young people's values have always been shallow a quote such as "my goal is to make a lot of money" is not out of the ordinary or specific to this decades culture. No matter what anybody's age is their goal is to make a lot of money.I think the cause for stress is what is expected of a young person to make a lot of money or the expectations that are thrown onto young people to be considered successful.

My mother is a successful homeowner with no college education, my neighbors father has a high position at an oil firm with no college education, I have had bosses with no college education, all successful and making high salaries ( a lot of money). Today, in order for me to be in there positions, I must complete college, know about a dozen people, and be in the top 15% of my class. That is one of the many sources where the stress comes from.

Along with the stress of going to college many people who do wish to go to college have to figure out how to pay for it. Bills...!!! And with the news focusing on high interest rates and never ending debt how can someone just graduating high school not be stressed?

Long comment short: just because rap songs and T.V. shows talk about diamonds and Rolls Royce's does not mean that those things are the focus of the young people listening to them or the cause of there anxiety. The real cause of stress is all the extra hoops young people must jump through to play in the same ring as the generations before us.

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Avatar for user 'animal619'

animal619 | January 13, 2010 at 11:36 p.m. ― 7 years, 2 months ago

*** (oops) The real cause of stress is all the extra hoops young people must jump through to play in the same ring as the generations before them.

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Avatar for user 'citruspr'

citruspr | January 25, 2010 at 3:32 p.m. ― 7 years, 2 months ago

Take a look at the differences in opportunities for a college grad a generation ago from today and you'll know why they're stressed. Competition for jobs. Unaffordable housing. Sky-high expectations from parents and of themselves.

Instead of labeling these kids as narcissistic, perhaps it would be good to look at why students have to be so extremely self-assured and confident to get in the door to the job they want - or have the ambition to be an entrepreneur. I'd be curious to see the research that discusses the new skill set needed to "make it" and would bet self-confidence is on that list.

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