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Middle age is more stressful now than it was in the 90s, study suggests

Experts point to the seemingly endless responsibilities for people in middle age

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Stress can crop up just about anywhere, and it can often leave consumers with any number of health-related concerns. 

Now, researchers from Penn State have found that life in general could be more stressful for consumers than it was only a few decades ago. In a new study, they learned that middle-aged consumers in the 2010s reported higher stress levels than middle-aged consumers in the 1990s. 

“Certainly, when you talk to people, they seem to think that daily life is more hectic and less certain these days,” said researcher David M. Almeida. “And so we wanted to actually collect that data and run the analysis to test some of those ideas.” 

Identifying the stressors

The researchers analyzed responses from surveys of adults in 1995 and a different group of adults in 2012. Though the participants were the same age at the time of the surveys, they were born in different decades, and so the differences in stress over time could be clearly outlined. 

The participants were asked questions about their daily lives, and they reported on their general stress levels, specific events that made them stressed out, and areas of their lives where they felt the most stress. 

Ultimately, the researchers learned that those in middle age in the 2010s were more stressed overall and also had more day-to-day stressors than those in the 1990s. The stress was found to affect their overall well-being and how they thought about future plans. 

“On average, people reported about two percent more stressors in the 2010s compared to people in the past,” Almeida said. “That’s around an additional week of stress a year. But what really surprised us is that people at mid-life reported a lot more stressors in 2010 than in 1990. And that translates to 64 more days of stress a year.” 

Different responsibilities

The researchers wanted to clear up what many consumers may be thinking about: midlife crises. According to Almeida, the responsibilities that consumers have to deal with at middle age are probably what’s contributing to these stressful feelings. 

“It may have to do with people at mid-life being responsible for a lot of people,” said Almeida. “They’re responsible for their children, oftentimes they’re responsible for their parents, and they may also be responsible for employees at work. And with that responsibility comes more daily stress, and maybe that’s happening more so now than in the past.” 

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