Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice | Voter Guide

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.


San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.