An Evaluation of the Causes and Effects of Teen Stress

by Megan Haymond

With the average high school student in Ohio spending at least 1001 hours in school per year (Vindy.com), it’s no mystery that school is often at the center of students’ stress. Changes in education has made school increasingly more result focused, shaping curriculums around Common Core tests, the OGT, AP examinations, and college entrance exams such as the ACT and SAT. On top of preparing for routine testing, students must complete daily assignments from each class. Somehow seven hours of schooling does not allocate teachers enough time to prepare students for said examinations causing increases in the amount of work completed outside the classroom. While homework is necessary to reinforce and retain information, it often becomes overwhelming when students are enrolled in advanced courses and participate in extracurricular activities.

As college application numbers increase and yields decrease, the quality of admitted students has changed. Colleges have widened their definition of a well-rounded student. It has grown into an impossible measure of perfection looking for students enrolled in every Advanced Placement class, with straight A’s, athletic activity, church involvement, community service, and musical talents shown outside of school. Not to mention the push for colleges to increase diversity numbers leaving the applications of many majority ethnicities students lackluster. 

Students are encouraged to make up for any mishap in their application, such as a B+ or lower test score, through extracurricular activities. Varsity athletics consume students’ time through daily practices and weekend competitions. The concerns of performing well on the athletic field can add to students’ stress. However, physical activity helps students retain information better and boosts mood with the extra excretion of endorphins. 

Many students are also members of the work force in order to put some extra cash in their pockets to pay for the rising college tuition costs. Coming up with approximately 100k for college tuition definitely weighs on the minds of parents and students. These high costs cause students to place even more pressure on themselves to build a college application that demands admissions officers offer scholarships. These duties tests students’ study skills and time management skills in efforts to prepare them for the demanding routines of post-secondary education. Most students find there are not enough hours in the day to complete their scholastic duties and personal duties, causing many to give up on one of these two necessary parts of life. This can result in feelings of loneliness due to missed experiences. During their four-year high school career, students are expected to figure out who they are, what they want to be, and where they want to go, all by the young age of 18. It’s no wonder these barely post-pubescent teens are struggling to keep their mental health.

The 2013 Stress in America survey reported that, “Teens during the school year averaged a 5.8 out of 10 on a stress scale, far above the 3.9 score considered to be a normal level of stress. For comparison, adults averaged a 5.1 on the scale. Even during the summer months when school was out, teens reported a 4.6 score” (CBS News). An increased level of stress in teens is dangerous because the high stress levels carry over into adulthood causing chronic stress. “Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes” (Stress Management: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research). The short-term side effects of stress include muscle pains, headaches, and upset stomach. Stress not only seriously affects physical health, but also mental health. “Drawing on self-reports from widely used psychological surveys, including the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, researchers found that over time, more and more students are reporting symptoms of mental illness” (ABC News). The dissatisfaction with personal success can lead to anxiety and depression. These mental illnesses are not to be taken lightly as suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers (Harvard Health Blog), making up 11% of teen deaths (CDC). Dr. Miller, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said, “Many people who commit suicide do so without letting on they are thinking about it or planning it” (Harvard Health Blog). This makes suicide difficult for family members and educators to prevent. Often the best thing authority figures can do to reduce the number of suicides among teens is to teach teens how to cope with stress and offer counseling services.

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