Published on: February 14, 2013
Yesterday, we reported here that the American Psychological Association has published a new study saying that 18-to-33 year olds, the so-called millennial generation, tend to stress out more than older generations, with more than 50 percent of those surveyed saying that their anxieties keep them awake at night.
The Los Angeles Times
coverage said that "a dour economy is top of mind for young people, with work and job stability sending their stress levels soaring. And no wonder -- their unemployment rate is 13.1%, well above the overall nation's 7.8%. A recent survey of 2010 college graduates found nearly half were in jobs that didn't require a university diploma ... Nearly 40% of millennials said their stress shot up in the last year, compared with 33% of baby boomers and 29% of those 67 and older."
My comment:I'm afraid that I'm a little unsympathetic on this one.
In part, this is because I find it hard to believe that stress can keep anyone awake at night. (Mrs. Content Guy says that I don't have trouble sleeping even at those times when I should have trouble sleeping. I say it is because of clean living ... but she's dubious.)
I get that young people have concerns about their professional futures, because an economic resurgence has taken so long and been so slow. But I would suggest that if they're being kept up at night by these concerns, I worry about how they're going to respond when they're married, with kids, paying off mortgages and putting your kids through college and dealing with aging parents and worrying about graying hair and receding hairlines and expanding waistlines and all sorts of other stuff.
I think it is fair to say that some folks disagreed with me...
MNB user Jenefer Angell responded:I’m so accustomed to your ordinarily balanced, well-reasoned perspectives, I am actually a little shocked at your “a little unsympathetic” response (understatement) to this item.
Firstly, you dismiss that anxiety can interfere with sleep – apparently because it never happens to you? Dismissing common collective experience based on a single personal observation is an extremely narrow viewpoint—not to mention that the connection between anxiety and sleep disturbance is so well established that it’s not even up for debate. I am a good sleeper and I tend to lead a fast-paced life, but when my anxieties are high, staying asleep becomes difficult. In my early 30s, when life was boiling over, I had a couple years of difficult sleep and guess what? I learned to use it as an indicator that I am too out of balance and a directive to make life changes. The Millennials, too, will learn.
Secondly, you imply that Millennials getting worked up about their predicament is an overreaction because just wait until they have “real” problems (subtext: like you?). That is unfair for a couple reasons: (1) you did not face the particular hurdles and pressures of this era when you were just out of college (and I’m not saying yours were less, but they were different), and (2) it is perfectly age-appropriate to be concerned about jobs in the 20s and early 30s, when you’re supposed to be establishing a career. (And who’s to say they’re not worried about those far-away middle-age problems too, when they can’t see how to create the foundation that will even allow for all the later activities that you suggest are so worrisome even under more optimal circumstances?)
Look at it this way: When a two-year-old is on the floor despairing over not getting a cookie, we find it amusing (except the parents, maybe) because from our expanded view, we know the cookie is a trivial problem. But in that moment, for a two-year-old, the cookie issue is truly and profoundly affecting—and that’s totally age-appropriate and not an indication that this child will not be able to handle the rigors of kindergarten. Think back, Kevin. I do not believe that in your 20s and 30s you sat around reflecting on how great it was that you didn’t have anything to worry about, because all the grown-up problems that really matter were years away. I expect that you had your everyday concerns that matched your world at the time—which a middle-age pundit might easily have dismissed and trivialized.
MNB user Mike Sommers wrote:You have got to be kidding me. Tell me how you would not be stressed out if you went to college to earn a degree, acquired student debt, graduated, and then find yourself in a job that you didn't even need to go to school for! Then every month the student debt payment comes due, of which you are not even using your education that you are now paying for.
Throughout the entire recession the story has always been that of sympathy for those that were 10 years or less away from retiring and lost their jobs. While it is unfortunate, the thing that is truly unfortunate is these people then took on jobs that were below their qualifications, thus taking jobs that those younger than them would normally have filled. Insert domino affect, and far fewer entry level jobs are available for college graduates than their used to be. Now while I consider myself lucky and found work in my career field which required my degree, I have plenty of friends that needed to find work below their qualifications to pay the bills in the meantime. This only prolongs recent graduates from purchasing homes, vehicles, and other economic stimulants which then affects the country as a whole. I think this stress is warranted.
From another reader:Kevin - I generally agree with you but I think you're living in a remarkable little personal bubble and demonstrated a surprising amount of insensitivity when you claimed it's hard to imagine stress keeping anyone awake. Maybe you were just being glib.
There are lots of people out there, in transition, over 50, who have bills to pay and no idea where or what their next job will be. I count myself among them. I have never had sleep issues but after stretches of waking in the middle of the night with sweats and a racing heart, now require meds to be able to get a good night's sleep. I have always actively avoided medication of any kind and stay in good shape, but this has now become necessary. And I'm one of the lucky ones - I'm not facing foreclosure or major health issues or issues from an aging parent.
I realize the little article was about kids and your implication is that they're a bunch of whiners, but they feel the pain of a parent who might be stressed, and the job market for them, even with excellent degrees, is crowded. And they don't have the perspective yet that allows them to put their stress in context relative to what they might encounter later in life. But I think a lot of them are now beginning to realize that they may not be able to reach the standard of living that they grew up with.
Sorry, but this one totally rubbed me the wrong way.
And another reader:I wanted to write to you about your Wednesday Morning Eye-Opener... While I agree with you about being a little unsympathetic, I disagree with you regarding the reason. I think they do not have the maturity or life experiences that older workers have and it results in higher stress. I know when I first started out in my career, even small things (down to constructive feedback) stressed me out and I would lose sleep over it. As I've grown older and more experienced, so many things roll off my shoulders because I finally get that it's not the end of the world. Also, becoming a wife and mother has actually decreased my stress. Having a sympathetic partner has helped me tremendously. But having an amazing child to come home to that demands my attention so much that I am forced to disconnect from work has had the biggest positive impact on my stress level. I can't stay mad or worried when I'm looking into her face. I'm not saying I don't get stressed so don't get me wrong. I am saying though that career experience, life maturity and family have all decreased the way in which it impacts me. I'm not worried about these younger workers - they'll be fine and their stress will level out. That is why I'm unsympathetic. They're over-reacting and will one day realize this. They just need the life and work experience to get them there.
And another:I can't make you empathize with millennials, but I can tell you that the APA study does resonate with me.
I'm someone who sits on the cusp of being a millennial, and I often feel stressed. Fortunately, I have a job that I enjoy, but the lines between work and play have been blurred thanks to technology that enables 24/7 communication. For those without jobs, it is easier than ever to read on social media the stories of successful friends who have charmed lives. We're still of the age where we are "paying our dues" and proving ourselves in the workplace, but doing so requires far more than working 8-5 Mon-Fri as many of our parents did. Unlike most of my older colleagues who have spouses staying at home with kids, my husband and I (who have a mortgage!) don't have the luxury of returning to a home-cooked meal and having our errands run while we're at work. It is also very presumptuous to assert that we don't have health problems of our own or aren't dealing with the health issues of our aging parents as well. Check both of those boxes for me!
I don't mean to sound ungrateful, and I am not looking for sympathy. I'm very thankful that my husband and I have job security, but this comes at the price of higher stress. The last thing we deserve is your criticism for it.
And, from another reader, perhaps the most pithy response:Interesting take on stress levels. It's two weeks until you are yelling "get off my lawn."
To be absolutely clear, these are just some of the emails ... but I think they pretty much capture the broad disgust with my opinion.
I'd like to offer a full-throated defense of my position, with quotes from Shakespeare and Jimmy Buffett and Robert B. Parker that back me up and reinforce my perspective.
But I can't.
I was wrong. And I have no excuse for my utter myopia when it came to that story.
Maybe it was graying hair, a receding hairline and expanding waistline that got to me. Or, maybe it was because it was my fourth night in Las Vegas, and the neon was affecting my brain.
I have no idea what I was thinking, nor why I was so unsympathetic. I spend enough time around young people - my own, and the kids in various classes that I talk to around the country - that there is no rationale for being so hard-hearted. (Hell, I'd just finished judging a contest among college students at NGA, and I remember thinking to myself how hard it would be for many of them to get a job.)
However...I'm not backing down on the whole Brussels sprouts thing.
Got yet another email on the issue yesterday, which said, in part:You’re an open minded adventuresome eater…can’t believe you won’t even try.
You're right. I am an open-minded and adventurous eater. And I happen to be the oldest son of a man who almost always orders chicken parmesan when he goes to Italian restaurants, because, well, that's what he likes. So give me some credit here.
But ... I don't like Brussels sprouts. Or nuts. Or liverwurst, egg salad, or beets.
While I appreciate you urging me on, I do think that sometimes you have to allow people to not like stuff that they don't like.
That said, if I go to a dinner next week at a friend's house, and they serve either Brussels sprouts or beets, I'll eat them. Because I'm a good guest and I would not want to be rude. (If they serve liverwurst or egg salad, though, I may have to leave the room...)
On the whole Netflix / "House of Cards" paradigm shift, MNB user Lisa Pierce wrote:As a loyal reader of MorningNewsBeat.com, I am truly grateful for both the industry commentary. Many of my colleagues and former colleagues are now "hooked" on it, and a week doesn't go by that we are emailing each other to discuss the topics! It makes for great dialogues, "comedy pyramids" and just great learning opportunities among ourselves.
But aside from that, I look forward to your "outside the lines" (I know, trademark ESPN noted) recommendations and I rejoined Netflix to see "House of Cards". I love it! I am a notorious "binge" viewer of TV shows (my current favorites are "Justified" and "The League"...a bit crude for some, but I love them!), but I canceled my cable TV because I couldn't find the time to watch shows. Yes, I had a DVR, but somehow, the cost didn't make sense for the number of truly good shows. At $7.99 per month (and I can cancel for the months that I'm slaving over a consulting gig), it is really worth the price paid.
You're absolutely right about "Justified," by the way ... it is terrific this season.
And from another reader:I watched the House of Cards in a marathon while out sick not that long ago. I would say two things…
First, great show.
Second, great delivery! Finally I can watch what I want on my time without any forethought or waiting for the next release.
Netflix has taken what HBO and Showtime started with quality exclusive content and they are starting to deliver it on the consumer’s terms.
Finally, one MNB user took note of the fact that last week I was critical of the Catholic Church hierarchy (which is, to be completely clear, vastly different from being critical of people who believe in the Catholic faith), and this week, the Pope resigned.
He wrote:Now you've done it!
I'd like to take credit, but...
At the risk of alienating a few more people on this subject, I would suggest that there even is a business lesson in the Pope's resignation. I firmly believe that one of the reasons he is resigning is that he knows that if he dies, and the College of Cardinals chooses a new Pope, they could pick someone who is moderate or (gasp!) progressive. By resigning, and because he knows that he's stocked the college with fellow conservatives, I think he feels that he can influence the direction of the church for years to come. Look for a 50-year-old conservative to get the Papal skull cap, and be the face of the Catholic Church for a quarter century or more.
Now, as a former Catholic, I'm not in favor of this. I think it is likely an unsustainable path, because the numbers suggest that as the church gets more conservative, fewer people go to church on a regular basis. (I really liked the headline in The Onion
this week: "Resigning Pope No Longer Has Strength To Lead Church Backward.")
But he may be giving us a master class in management.