Speaking of Psychology – Stress in America: Generation Z with Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD (SOP68)

Speaking of Psychology – Stress in America: Generation Z with Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD (SOP68)


Welcome to Speaking of Psychology, a podcast
from the American Psychological Association. I’m your host, Kaitlin Luna. I’m joined by APA CEO Dr. Arthur C. Evans
Jr., who’s here to talk about our Stress in America report that was released at the end
of October and the findings are quite stark — 69 percent of American adults report significant
stress about our nation’s future and it’s not just them. Teens and young adults in Generation Z are
also reporting significant stress about issues like mass shootings, school shootings, sexual
assault and news headline issues, like immigration. Welcome, Dr. Evans. Thank you. Glad to be here. There’s a lot happening in the
country in the world right now and it’s clearly affecting the health for young people. What is the state of the mental health of
our young people today in Generation Z. Well, what our survey found
is that young people are experiencing a significant amount of stress and it’s related to a number
of things that are happening in our society. While young people are not, and we refer to
them as Generation Z, that’s the age group between 15 and 21, while they’re not experiencing
different stressors, they are experiencing those stressors at a greater intensity than
the rest of the population. So, we’re concerned about that. And we’re also concerned that when we ask
about their mental health and the state of their mental health, young people, that age
group, actually say that their mental health is fair or poor at a greater rate than other
generations. And so, what are some of the
unique stressors that this generation faces today? One of the things that we’re
concerned about is that while Generation Z is experiencing the same things as older generations,
they are not as equipped to deal with that. First of all, from a developmental standpoint,
you know our executive functioning, the part of the brain that is controls that, isn’t
fully developed until age 25. And so, on the one hand, you have this generation
that is experiencing the same stressors as everyone else, but developmentally they haven’t
developed. They haven’t fully maturated and don’t have
all of those skills that they, they need from that standpoint. So, for example, the issue of mass shootings. Generation Z reports that as a stressor at
a greater rate than the rest of the population significantly. They’re concerned about school shootings,
which is something that is going to affect them more than other groups. They’re also concerned about things like social
media. One of the interesting things in the survey
is that half of the people, about half of that generation, sees social media as a support
and something that’s positive and the other half see it as something that can be a stressor. So, we know social media, a lot of the concerns
that they have about what’s happening in the news, issues like immigration, issues like
suicide, those kinds of issues are also stressors for them. In social media, as you said
does play a role because that’s something that wasn’t around as much for Millennials
or it was around at all for Generation X or previous generations. That’s correct. So, social media and school shootings, that
was something that people in my generation didn’t worry about but is clearly a stressor
for young people today. So, about seven out of ten Generation
Z respondents reported lying awake at night because of stress, but what are some of the
other physiological signs of stress that manifests in teens and young adults? Not only are teens lying awake
at night, but they are also experiencing physical and mental symptoms. In fact, 90 percent reported at least one
symptom in the past month. That is a very high number. So, you know, we’re concerned about the level
of symptoms that young people are experiencing this generation. The other kinds of symptoms that they might
be experiencing are disturbances in eating, disturbances in sleep, reporting headaches. Those are the kinds of physical symptoms that
often are an indication that people are experiencing stress. And so, what can parents and
other people do to help these young people to not be so stressed and to make their lives
a little bit easier? You can do a lot of things. So, one of the things to do is to really be
clear about what are the things that are creating stress — and I think the survey is actually
one of the things that’s helpful in that because we sort of lay out these are the things that
young people are most concerned about and ours causing stress for people. But, it’s also important for people to understand
that things like social support — we have literally decades of research that shows that
the more people that we have in our lives that support us, generally the better our
health is. Generally, generally, the better our mental
health is and frankly the better we do in life. And so, we can be much more intentional about
making sure that we are including people in our lives when we are going through very stressful
periods. Social media — we talked about social media. Social media, again, can be a help or it can
be something that causes stress, particularly when people are bullied through social media. So, being able to limit that and to control
that is an important way of managing stress. And then, there are things that we can all
do to just take care of ourselves — getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising, those
kinds of physical activities actually help us manage the level of stress that we’re experiencing. And one bright spot the study
found is that Generation Z is more likely to go see a therapist than the Millennials. So, is that a sign that the mental health
stigma is going away? Wouldn’t go there yet. In terms of is mental health stigma going
away, we know that mental health stigma is very powerful. It is universal. I was at a recent international conference
and the same kind of stigma that we have in the U.S. is really reflected around the world. So, this is much bigger than even the United
States. I do believe though that this younger generation
is much more open to receiving services, and in fact, our survey says that. It says that they’re more likely to be open
to receiving mental health services. And so, I think that there is a glimmer of
hope that people are becoming more open to receiving mental health services, that there’s
less stigma around those that them around that generation and around these issues, but
we do have a much bigger problem in our country and we have to be very concerned about how
do we reduce the stigma and start to view mental health issues in the same way that
we view physical health issues. So, only slightly more than
half of Generation Z respondents said they were likely to vote in the midterm elections. Now, we’re past the elections now, but what
does that say about why this generation chooses not to be active in politics? Well, I’m not a political scientist,
but what we do know is that the older people are the more likely they are to vote. And so, Generation Z is not different than
previous generations in that sense. We do also know that this generation has been,
is a little more likely to vote than previous generations of that age group. So, I think there’s a little good news there
that it looks like the trend is towards them being more active, the fact that they’re not
voting is not atypical. One of the things that we are, I think, that
is good about this generation is that you see a level of activism that we haven’t seen
in this generation in the past. We saw that around the issue of school shootings. We see that around other issues. And so, one of the things that we know is
that the more engaged you are around issues that you’re feeling stress about, the more
likely it is that you are able to manage that stress effectively. And so, by voting, by being engaged in the
political system, those are ways that actually help all of us deal with stress more effectively. And moving on to adults, in
this survey compared to last year, the overall stress for adults went up significantly, so
what does that tell us? Well, it what it says is that
that people are really feeling the effects of the environment, the political environment,
the social environment. We were surprised last year when we saw 63
percent of Americans saying that they were stressed when it came to thinking about the
future of the country. That number went from 63 percent last year
to 69 percent in the current survey. And so, it means that the current environment
isn’t getting better. It also could mean that people are being more
sensitive to it, but I suspect that it has more to do with the environment changing and
becoming more entrenched around some of the incivility that we’ve seen as opposed to people
being just more sensitive to that. Okay and about a quarter of
all people respond to the survey said discrimination was also a source of stress and that was close
to half of African-American adults and one-third of Hispanic adults and which was surprising
is that this rate is the highest since the question was first added to the survey in
2015. So, can you speak to the challenges facing
minority communities and people of color? Well, minority communities,
people of color have historically rated and experienced more stress than other parts of
the population. So that’s pretty consistent. The results of this survey are showing that,
and I think reinforcing this idea that the current political environment, the current
social environment is having an effect in terms of people’s stress levels. So, not unexpected, but I think we have to
be concerned then again about the current political environment, the current tone that
we’re in, because that is having an impact on Americans in general, but also on minority
groups in particular. And so, overall you advise people
to seek out social supports to get sleep, exercise, take care of themselves. Are there other coping strategies that you
suggest for teens and adults? Well, I think it’s very important
to be, to actively be engaged around the issues that people have concerns about and stress
about. Since many of the things that we, we noted
in the survey are political in nature, it’s important then for people being engaged in
the political process, for people to vote, for people to be active on issues that they
care about — if that’s immigration, if that’s in the environment — if you know, whatever
that issue is for people to be actively involved in those issues actually helps them to manage
their stress level. And so, why does APA do this
study? Well, we do this study because
we know that there is a direct connection between the level of stress that we experience
and then a whole series of health outcomes. And if we want the nation to be healthy, we
know that stress is can be an impediment to that, we think we’re doing a public service
by helping the public to understand one, what are the things that people are stressed about,
what are the levels of stress that people are experiencing, how is that changing, but
more importantly it gives us an opportunity then to talk about strategies, coping strategies
and things that people can put in place to really manage that stress and be much more
conscious about the stress that they are experiencing. And APA always offers plenty
of resources on a variety of topics, like Stress in America or you know, postpartum
depression, you know, how to talk to children about traumatic events. So, what does APA and what does APA and psychologists
around the country, what role they play in helping ease people’s stress? Well, a variety of things. So, one of the things is that when our stress
gets to the point that it manifests in mental health challenges, seeing a psychologist can
be very helpful. We also know that because we have psychologists
all over the country who are aware of some of these issues, they can be very important
resources to schools, to communities, giving lectures about ways that people can manage
stress. You know, we really don’t want people to need
clinical intervention. So, the more we can do to educate people about
ways that they can manage stress, ways that they can mitigate stressors that are happening
in their lives, the less likely it is that people are going to run into challenges that
really require clinical intervention. Clinical intervention is okay. That’s why we train because we want to be
able to do that, but we also want to be proactive and be preventative and do early intervention,
as well. And the APA website is a great
tool for that. The APA website is a great tool
for that. It has a lot of resources there. Our Stress in America section can be very
helpful, but we also have information on how you can reach a psychologist if you’re looking
for one and need one. Wonderful. Thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Evans. Thank you. I’ve enjoyed being here. If you want to learn more, please
visit StressinAmerica.org. If you’ve been a longtime listener or viewer
or are new to our show, please consider giving us a rating or write a review. We’d really appreciate it. We also like to hear from you directly, so
if you have any questions or comments, please email me at [email protected] That’s [email protected] Speaking of Psychology is part of the APA
podcast network, which includes other great podcasts, like APA Journals Dialogue and Progress
Notes. You can find our podcasts on iTunes, Stitcher
or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also visit Speakingofpsychology.org
to view more episodes and to see resources on the topics we discuss. I’m Kaitlin Luna for the American Psychological
Association.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *