Muir Wood Teen

Performance Pressures

America’s young people are feeling stressed out. School shootings, global climate change, and the threat of sexual violence are typically among the main stressors. More traditional pressures to succeed at school academically and in extracurricular activities like sports remain important stressors as well. Getting into the “right” college and being awarded the necessary scholarships in order to reduce the expected massive student loan debt is high on the agenda for many high school students.

As a result, over-scheduling becomes yet another source of academic stress. Many students enroll in more honors or advanced placement courses than they can actually handle and then pile extracurricular activities on top, just to be ahead of the competition. 

The pressure to fit in with peers and be accepted by a desired social circle can also be the source of unhealthy stress. As adolescents come to grips with their identity and sense of self, these pressures can be a catalyst for levels of anxiety that can negatively affect both physical and mental well-being. There are now fears that the current generation is being overwhelmed with stress-related mental health issues.

“Despite high percentages of Gen Zs feeling stress from different causes, only half (50 percent) feel they do enough to manage their stress,” reported the American Psychological Association (APA) in its 2018 “Stress in America” survey. “Nearly three-quarters in this generation (73 percent) say they could have used more emotional support in the past year.” The APA survey defined members of Gen Z as adolescents and young adults who were between the ages of 15 and 21 in 2018.

Performance-related stress combined with fears about the future can easily induce anxiety disorders including attempts to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Even the escalating addiction crisis itself is a source of additional stress. “Gen Z is feeling the impact of the opioid crisis, with nearly two in five (39 percent) reporting that the opioid and heroin epidemic is a significant source of stress” for them, according to the APA survey.