21 October 1999

Are Kids Getting Stressed Out?

by Kate Melville

A new study by researchers from the University of Michigan claims that two-thirds of the American teenagers and young adults feel stressed at least once a week, and one-third saying that they're stressed every day!

By way of comparison the study noted that in Japan only one-third of the teenagers and young adults say they feel stress at least once a week, with less than 10 percent of the high school students say they're stressed every day. More than 8,000 high-school students and young adults in their early 20s were used in the research project that was conducted by Harold Stevenson, a psychologist from the University of Michigan

According to Dr Stevenson ,"American students experience greater amounts of stress because of the unclear goals provided by their families and society. They are expected to have a job, do chores, lead an active social life, engage in sports, and also do well in school. The conflicts experienced in trying to meet all of these challenges appear to result in a great deal of stress." By way of contrast Japanese students have an unambiguous appreciation of the fact that parental and societal expectations focus exclusively on academic achievement.

However it is apparently a misconception, to link achievement with high levels of stress. "The charge is often made that the Japanese, along with other countries whose students are high-achievers, must pay a price for the high levels of performance and their greater devotion to studying. That price is assumed to be an increase in various types of psychological maladjustment."

But Stevenson's studies suggest that this isn't the case and that in fact U.S. students, report feeling anxious and aggressive often, in particular, they were far more likely to say they felt like hitting someone, destroying something, or getting into serious arguments or fights with other students in the month before being surveyed!

The media often generalise violence in the US being the result of a 'gun culture', however perhaps it's stress that's making people shoot each other in the first place?