Loneliness and Uncertainty Major Stressors for College Students

Loneliness and Uncertainty Major Stressors for College Students

Emma AdamProfessor Emma Adam's research on stress contributed to the Stress in America 2020 report.

Stress from COVID-19–along with stress related to health care, the economy, racism and the presidential election–is seriously threatening the mental health of our country, particularly our youngest generation, according to a new national survey from the American Psychological Association (APA).

The potential long-term consequences of the persistent stress and trauma created by the pandemic are particularly serious for our country’s youngest individuals, known as Generation Z. The 2020 APA survey, called Stress in America 2020,  shows that teens (ages 13-17) and young adults (ages 18-23) are facing unprecedented uncertainty, experiencing elevated stress and are already reporting symptoms of depression.

“Loneliness and uncertainty about the future are major stressors for adolescents and young adults who are striving to find their places in the world, both socially, and in terms of education and work,” said Emma Adam, a developmental psychobiologist in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, who led the design and collection of the teen data for the report.

“The pandemic and its economic consequences are upending youths’ social lives and their visions for their futures," Adam said."We must work to provide social, emotional and mental health supports to this generation, while providing much-needed financial assistance and educational and work opportunities for youth. Both comfort now and hope for the future are essential for the long-term well-being of this generation."

While older Americans may be able to embrace the feeling of “this, too, shall pass,” young adults are at a pivotal moment in their lives and are experiencing adulthood at a time when the future looks uncertain.

The survey also indicates most Americans are not getting the support they need. The majority of adults (61%) say they could have used more emotional support than they received over the prior 12 months, with more than eight in 10 Gen Z adults (82%) saying the same.

Adam, the Edwina S. Tarry Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research, helped create recommendations to support young people struggling to cope, including economic, training and work supports and mental health services, including increased telehealth options and enriched school mental health services.

Read the full story, which includes how to support Gen Z, in Northwestern News.

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By Erin Karter
Last Modified: 4/22/21