Are you feeling particularly stressed these days? Chances are your answer to this question might be highly influenced by both your age and your gender (not to mention what the heck is also going on in your day-to-day life).
A national survey on how daily stress affects our personal health issues, for example, found that respondents’ answers appeared divided according to these four main age groups:
- 18-33 years – “Millennials”
- 34-47 years – “Generation X”
- 48-66 years – “Boomers”
- 67+ years – “Matures”
First, all age groups ranked their stress level as “above a healthy ideal”, but Matures far less so than other demographics, describing on average their stress level as being “close to a healthy ideal.”
Not surprisingly, Millennials and Gen Xers report the highest average level of stress. This makes sense, as youth through middle-aged 18-47s have so many major decisions to make and actions to take (education, employment, marriage, having children – who then turn into teenagers during your 30s-40s!) that are to some extent past for the two older groups.
The younger respondents were more likely to say they engage in unhealthy behaviours due to stress, and to also express anger or irritability due to stress.
Healthy lifestyle is more elusive for the younger groups, including over-eating, alcohol and smoking among their means of stress management. Religious service commitment was lower for younger respondents but the retail therapy of shopping was higher.
Not sleeping due to perceived stress? Definitely the younger respondents.
19% of Millennials reported they have been diagnosed with depression and 12% with anxiety disorders, higher than the older participants, with Matures showing the lowest percentages.
As in previous stress surveys, women report higher stress levels than men, and both sexes see their stress levels as above a healthy amount.
Women may live longer than men do, but at the extremely high levels of stress, women predominate. Women’s methods of managing stress beyond exercise or listening to music (the two top stress management activities reported by both men and women) tended to be more social or sedentary than men’s, including reading, time with family or friends, shopping, and over-eating – including unhealthy foods.
Men reported less depression, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed compared to women. Both sexes had a low incidence of seeking professional help in managing their stress.
Why do women seem particularly susceptible to daily stress?
According to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (and what every woman out there already knows), women are generally socialized to be the caretakers of others. Over 70% of married women with children under the age of 18 are employed outside the home. Sociologists describe women as struggling to achieve the “male standard” at work, while trying to maintain perfect standards at home, too.
“Women are also less likely to be as able as men are to change their environment. Women find it harder to say NO to others’ requests, and often feel guilty if they can’t please everyone.
“Women often spend less time nurturing their own emotional and physical needs, as that might be perceived as selfish.”
Here’s how Cleveland Clinic experts suggest you address nurturing those emotional and physical needs for a change. Leisure time must be considered a necessity, not just a reward for doing more. Personal time for rejuvenation will never be available unless it is planned. Prioritizing based on principle rather than demand is sometimes difficult to learn, but is critical for peace of mind and stress management. And finally:
“You can’t be all things to all people all of the time. Don’t be reluctant to ask for help. Avoid combining too many projects. Delegate if necessary. Learn to say NO!”
NOTE FROM CAROLYN: I wrote more about living with stress in my book, “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease”. You can ask for it at your local bookshop, or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon, or order it directly from my publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press (use their code HTWN to save 20% off the list price).
Q: How does your own stress level compare with this survey’s results?