In 2015, Business Insider conducted a series of stress measuring tests across different generations. On their six-point scale, they found that millennials averaged a stress level of 5.5 while others tested rounded out at only three or four. Why is our generation so much more stressed than any other, despite the fact that things in this country are so much better than they were for previous generations?
I believe there are two primary reasons for which millennials are stressed more than other generations.
First, we are by far the most distracted people you will meet. The Business Insider survey reported that use of coping mechanisms like watching TV, surfing the web, and eating or drinking occurred across all categories in under 30 percent of respondents from other generations. These people, for the most part, buckle down and get to it, while millennials tend to procrastinate. While our social networking and technological savvy is far higher than that of any other generation, we also cause a lot of self-induced stress with that same technology.
Don’t believe me? Go look around at a library, coffee shop, or anywhere that students gather to “study” or “work on projects.” Not much actual work is getting done. Snapchat stories, Twitter feeds, and Facebook posts are where all the action actually happens. Stress builds as deadlines creep closer because of how distracted our generation is, and this isn’t just at school. Problems are also caused at work by the constant use of social media and other non-productive websites.
The distractions are endless, and millennials are the generation that welcomes them more so than any other.
Second—and this is the big one—millennials, in general, have little to no perspective. We have not had war actually affect our lives, nor have we lost an entire generation to a war and had to send everyone left to factories to contribute to the war effort, or fought through crippling economic depression. We are stressed because when Becky throws shade on Twitter, it is genuinely the worst part of our day.
While living in a country that provides the comforts that the U.S. does is an amazing gift, the millennial generation is poorly equipped to handle “crunch time” situations. Compared to the rest of the world, our lives are pretty easy. We just don’t know it, which is why medical complications like high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression have spiked over the last four years.
I’m not saying that no millennial has ever had a real problem or that things like depression are not real. What I am saying is that when I have people in my age group tell me what stresses them, the answer is usually a project that needs to get done today after having spent a weekend drinking and partying, or a day fouled up by one interaction with a passive-aggressive friend.
So—what to do? How do you broaden your narrow, first-world perspective? Go and read a paper after you read this one—and not the New York Times or the Washington Post. Go read the Asharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi newspaper, or one from India or Pakistan. Translations are available for most of these papers, and reading a few stories from a third-world country will shed some light on how good we really have it here in the states. Using a “third-world perspective” when we have a bad 30 minutes in a 24-hour day may just help us keep our problems from defining our day (or the whole of our lives).