U.K. teens are severely stressed, study finds


Very few people would say their teen years were stress-free. It’s a chaotic time of changing social structures, responsibilities and bodies. That stew of strong emotions, new surroundings and personal changes makes for a period in life most people are relieved to be done with.

For some teens, stress can cause them to find outlets in alcohol or other substances. Aside from the obvious illegality, alcohol abuse can have severe health and social costs, including adding to the drinker’s stress. A study released this year from the World Health Organization (WHO) found 15-year-olds in the United Kingdom reported feeling unusually stressed.

Stress in the UK

The WHO’s study compared the health of children living in 42 European and North American countries. According to the WHO’s data, 73 percent of girls and 52 percent of boys living in the U.K. felt pressured by school work, higher than the respective 51 and 39 percent averages.

Across the board, Scotland’s teens reported higher levels of stress, with 80 percent of girls and 59 percent of boys reporting school-related pressure.

More worrisome, the WHO found a close relationship between stress and underage drinking: 31 percent of the U.K.’s girls and 25 percent of the boys reported having been drunk on two or more occasions, higher than the respective 20 percent and 24 percent worldwide averages.

Unfortunately, stress is something American teens have in common with their counterparts across the pond.

Stress is part of daily life for teens

In 2013, the American Psychological Association conducted their Stress in America survey. Using a 10-point scale, the survey of 1,018 teens and 1,950 adults found that teens rated their stress at 5.8, compared to adults at 5.1. Of those American teens studied:

  • 31 percent said they felt overwhelmed by stress
  • 31 percent said their stress increased during the past year
  • 42 percent said they either weren’t doing enough to manage their stress, or weren’t sure if they were doing enough

Adults didn’t come off much better in the survey – 42 percent of adults surveyed reported their stress levels had increased, and 10 percent said they didn’t engage in any stress-reliving activities.

Fighting stress

Although it sounds odd, there are benefits to stress. The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, reports that short-lived periods of moderate stress can help people feel more aware and improve performance and memory. However, longer-lasting, more severe stress can have many harmful side effects.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the reactions to stressful events can include feelings of helplessness, anxiety about the future, and difficulty with concentrating and making decisions. The CDC also warns stress reactions can include substance use, including drugs and alcohol.

Fortunately, there are ways that teens and others can fight stress. In addition to avoiding drugs and alcohol – which ultimately create stress of their own – and sharing problems with others, the CDC advises that simply taking better care of one’s self is a great way to fight stress. Eating healthy, getting exercise, taking breaks and sleeping are not only healthy, they make people feel better. The National Sleep Foundation recommends several tips to improving sleep quality, including keeping a regular sleep schedule and avoiding naps during the day.

Severe stress can benefit from therapy and medical intervention. White River Academy offers a therapeutic boarding school environment for boys aged 12 to 17. Our staff of experts will work with your son to create an effective treatment program which will set boundaries as well as educate. For more information, please call our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Brian Moore is a  20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which’s he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. 

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