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Modern culture root cause for more stress

Guest Columnist

Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 20:02

As if we didn’t know already: millennials — young people coming of age in the 21st century — are reporting that they experience more stress, anxiety and depression than their older cohorts did.

There are likely overlapping reasons why this is occurring. Millennials encounter a dizzying and dazzling array of choices — in careers, websites, sexuality, geography, religion, consumer goods, and others — more than other generations encountered in the past.

Writer James Shelley discussed an addiction to idealism that some young people possess, which may lead to endless dissatisfaction with their lives, as they leapfrog from one sense of self to another.

One choice Millennials may want to make is to get more shut-eye. The Internet, cable television and 24-hour restaurants and stores have all created a new American landscape, robbing Millennials of much-needed sleep. And we all know that sleep is necessary for mental health. Oddly, the generation of energy drinks and caffeination abound may need to hit the hay.

Another life choice Millennials might need to consider is less time online and on social media, known as “anti-social media.” Some theorists believe that pollutants, pesticides, chemicals and industrial waste can be linked to greater instances of depression. Further, Millennials have grown up staring at radiated television and computer screens for longer periods of time, affecting the brain chemical dopamine responsible for sleep, voluntary movement, dreaming and even sexual gratification. The American Academy of Pediatrics speaks of “Facebook depression,” and many psychologists have noted strong links between screen addiction, gaming addiction and social isolation.

According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials simply lead hyper-connected lives. Through Facebook, Twitter and other social media, they sometimes have only false senses of community and intimacy. Football star Manti Te’os’ imaginary girlfriend incident should not be viewed as an isolated event. From the hundreds of “friends” on Facebook to the alter ego personalities created online, Millennials, more than any generation, suffer from issues of identity and trust and often lack in authentic experiences.

The world young people wake up to is not calming. Millennials have inherited a world of gun violence and school shootings other generations lacked. Shootings have been a part of our nation’s history since its inception. But the psychotic and deadly gun violence that became household names — Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Congresswoman Giffords in Tuscon, Ariz. and Sandy Hook — are a fairly recent phenomenon. If simply going to school or to a mall is frightening, no wonder why young people grow up in fear.

In all likelihood, however, the brave, new world economy is the biggest contributor to Millennial malaise. The technology revolution has created — and will continue to create — such a vastly different planet, with different jobs and duties that are anxiety inducing. Many studies cite job concerns as a major factor for stress in Millennials.

You may not be competing with the guy sitting next to you in class for a job. Instead, you’ll be jostling with a guy in Sri Lanka with a laptop or a woman in Kenya with a smart phone. Very little is tied to place anymore, which can be anxiety-causing indeed.

We are living in the material world. Now Millennials are bombarded by more advertising than past generations in the past thanks to the Internet and social media. As technology evolves, so do new ways to reach consumers. The sense that there’s never enough — or that one must always upgrade — may add to young people’s stress levels, some psychologists believe.

To be sure, there may be other reasons that Millennials are reporting themselves as anxious and depressed, such as societal changes in family structures. It is also likely that the stigmas and taboos Baby Boomers experienced in reporting depression have vanished, resulting in different statistics. For certain, one cause for depression in Millennials is over analysis from Baby Boomers.

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