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Article posted: 2/25/2014 5:45 AM

Teens report more stress than adults, with school to blame

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By Margaret Shapiro

U.S. teenagers report feeling more stressed-out than adults do, with school being a main cause, according to a new survey for the American Psychological Association.

The survey of 1,018 teenagers, ages 13 to 17, and 1,950 adults was conducted online last August and found many teens reporting being overwhelmed or depressed because of their high stress levels.

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"Many American teens report experiencing stress at unhealthy levels, appear uncertain in their stress management techniques and experience symptoms of stress in numbers that mirror adults' experiences," according to the "Stress in America" survey. "Meanwhile, teens report that stress is having an impact on their performance at home, work and school." Their self-reported stress levels were higher than that reported by adults.

• Fully 83 percent of teens said that school was "a somewhat or significant source of stress." Twenty-seven percent reported "extreme stress" during the school year, though that number fell to 13 percent during summer. And 10 percent felt that stress had had a negative impact on their grades.

• Just under 60 percent of teens said that having to manage too many activities was a "somewhat or very significant" stressor.

• Forty percent of teens reported feeling irritable or angry during the previous month, and 36 percent reported feeling nervous or anxious. Just over a third reported "having lain awake at night" due to stress.

• Some 32 percent reported experiencing headaches, 21 percent reported upset stomach or indigestion and 23 percent had skipped a meal because of stress.

• Although regular exercise is a well-studied stress reducer, many of the teens reported infrequent exercise: 20 percent said they exercised at most once a week. Instead, the survey found, "many teens turn to sedentary activities to cope, such as playing video games (46 percent), surfing the Internet or going online (43 percent) and watching television or movies (36 percent)." Teens who exercised at least once a week reported lower stress than their peers.

• Girls reported feeling generally more stressed-out than boys: They were more depressed, sad and irritable due to stress and they felt less able to manage it. The report on the survey said this difference between the sexes is also seen in the adult population.

• " Women have consistently reported stress at rates higher than men and are more likely to report experiencing symptoms of stress and more trouble managing stress. Unfortunately, it looks like this pattern might emerge early in our lives," the report said.

• Among adults, the most commonly reported sources of stress were, not surprisingly, money issues (71 percent) and work (69 percent).

• "American adults continue to report higher stress levels than what they believe to be healthy," the survey said, with about a third of those surveyed saying their stress level has "a strong or very strong impact" on their physical or mental health.

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