The generation of the future needs to take a break. The Millennials, or Generation Y workers, appear to be the most stressed demographic in America, according to a study commissioned by the American Psychological Association.
And it is not surprising. These "digital natives" are also the most hyper-connected group that find it almost impossible to switch off, put their mobile gadgets away for a while or shift to downtime mode. In fact, stress levels are only set to increase unless we all find ways to get out of the hamster-wheel trap of working 24/7. Asked to rank their stress levels on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the highest, Millennials were ahead of the older generations with an average score of 5.4, compared to 4.7 for the Baby Boomers and 3.7 for a group that the "Stress In America" study called "Matures." Almost 40% of Generation Ys said their stress levels had increased over the past year, against 33% for Boomers and 29% for Matures.
The higher stress levels in Millennials are also manifested in their increased anger and irritability and all the health consequences that stress incurs on any human being such as depression, anxiety, diabetes, obesity and so on. Not surprisingly, work is the major source of stress for 76% of the Gen Y respondents. It's true that much of the stress comes from the currently grim labor market situation, with high youth unemployment, crushing student debt and quality higher education still unaffordable. But it also comes from the prevailing workplace ethics where downtime is considered time wasted and rewards go to those who work hardest and most continuously over time, even though doesn't mean they work more productively, as Tony Schwartz, the author of the Energy Project, says.
Entering a tough job market, the Millennials are incentivized to work harder, sleep less, skip vacations, eat their lunch at their desks and do all that is against the "strategic renewal" Schwartz talks about. Yet they are the generation of the future and at some point the future will be theirs. As the Millennials themselves are optimistic that their standard of living will improve, we have no reason to doubt they will find their way out of the stress, redefining and experiencing success that incorporates a healthier, more inspiring, meaningful and productive work and life.