Millennials Freak Out More

Gen Y is the most stressed out generation, but learning leaders have the power to keep them sane.

Younger employees looking frazzled lately? It’s a symptom of being Gen Y.

A 2014 study by the American Psychological Association found that millennials are the most stressed out generation. Top cited reasons included money (64 percent) and work stress (60 percent).

Theresa Fox, president and CEO of DeStressify, a stress relief program, talked with Chief Learning Officer about the causes for this generational freak-out and what learning leaders can do to calm their young employees. Edited excerpts follow.

Theresa Fox, CEO of DeStressify

How does Gen Y compare with other groups?

[The American Psychological Association study] demonstrates that millennials are the most stressed out generation. On a scale from 1-10, where 10 is most stressed, millennials scored the highest. Their score of 5.5 was significantly larger than baby boomers at 4.5 and matures [who are born before 1945] at 3.5. Gen X averaged 5.4, just behind the millennials in stress levels. 

Why is that? Are they not well-equipped, or is there just a lot more stress?

Millennials graduated college and came into the job market during a difficult period when unemployment rates were high. While many millennials felt an advanced degree would guarantee a good job, as it did for many of their parents and teachers, reality did not live up to their expectations. Struggling to pay off college debt and working in jobs outside of their anticipated fields have also created frustrations with the system.

Millennials, more than any other generation, are looking for employment that is meaningful and full of purpose. A 2014 study by Bentley University revealed 66 percent of millennials indicated they would like to start their own business. The daily grind of most jobs does not fulfill a millennial’s desire for autonomy and to be making a major difference.

According to a 2015 study by Harris Polls for EY, at 78 percent, “millennials are almost twice as likely to have a spouse/partner working at least full-time than boomers (at 47 percent).” While previous generations had a spouse at home to take care of errands and household tasks, millennials are more likely to be doing it all, leaving less time for activities they enjoy to recharge.

The APA study also found millennials are more likely than other generation to choose sedentary and unhealthy stress relief techniques such as spending time watching TV or surfing the Internet.

How can you teach employees to better handle stress?

There are a many stress relief techniques that have been scientifically studied and proven to reduce stress. Practices such as mindfulness, meditation, breath work, yoga, Qigong and physical exercise have all demonstrated positive effects on stress levels. Major employers are beginning to include stress relief programs as part of their wellness initiatives. In fact, many offer on-site classes, mobile apps and other training material to support their employees. Mobile apps are geared toward stress relief offer particular benefits for this technologically savvy group who need the flexibility to practice whenever and wherever due to their time constraints. Stress relief programs can not only reduce the costs of medical care for employers but also reduce absenteeism, turnover and workplace conflicts. They have also been shown to increase focus, attention, creativity, problem solving and efficiency.

Additionally, employees are looking for assistance from their employers, and millennials are making decisions about where to work based on whether or not they believe the employer cares about them. With millennials already outnumbering baby boomers and becoming more than 50 percent of the workforce in the next five years, according to the PwC NextGen forecast, employers need to address millennials’ issues.