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Stress in Young Adults (6 Common Causes)

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What causes stress in young adults?

Young adults face the challenge of finding a job, managing their finances, maintaining relationships, and staying healthy among other things. All of which can become quite overwhelming and stressful.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at six common causes of stress in young adults.

Stress in Young Adults: 6 Causes of Stress

2013 article on the WebMD site noted that young adults of the millennial generation were the most stressed group in America. Now that we are several years past that stage, further studies are revealing that the stress levels reported had little to do with that particular generation. Stress in young adults is increasing.

It is hypothesized that cultural changes have led to this increase in stress in young adults. Particularly with the rise of the internet and the popularity of social media, young adults are exposed to an idea of perfectionism which had not existed on a massive scale, previously. Even for those who manage to escape the social pressure of presenting an ideal front to the world, practical matters are still looming.

If high levels of stress continue for too long, you may experience an episode of anxiety or even develop an anxiety disorder. If this is the case, it’s best to seek help from a mental health provider and explore anxiety treatment for young adults.

Here are six things that cause stress in young adults.

1. Choosing A Career

In the old days, deciding upon a career was easy. Young men learned a craft from their fathers, and young women got married off for a career of a housewife.  Along with eventual the benefit of a public education system – and equal opportunity for all – came the frightening prospect of choice in career. Once becoming free to choose our own career paths, all of the stress of determining what profession to pursue falls onto the young person’s shoulders.

The effects of culture can make this decision task even more gut-wrenching, as there is an underlying pressure to choose a career that will meet all of your financial needs, while simultaneously capitalizing on all of your skills, strengths, and interests. Finding that perfect mixture to supposedly unlock all doors of your successful path in life can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

2. Finishing An Education

For many, having a choice in career is dependent upon successfully navigating the realm of higher education. The stereotype of the stressed-out college student, surviving on ramen noodles and staying up all night to finish a paper, is valid. College students are reporting higher levels of stress than ever, as they experience separation from their families, increased workloads, and increasing student debt.

As of 2019, over half of all college students are in debt to their student loans. The average student graduates with upwards of 35 thousand dollars owed, and the monthly payments which are required often only cover the interest. This means that the weight of carrying a student loan can end up being pulled throughout the first several years of beginning a career, adding stress to the already daunting task of making enough money to survive.

3. Making Money

Money is the most common cause of stress in young adults.

Having a career that you love and will excel in might be the goal, but the cash has to come along, regardless. Most new entrants into a career field start at the bottom of the pay scale. If your career goal is one that is dependent upon a college degree, the ability to make money from it lies even further away on the timeline.

As it is with older adults, young adults cite money as one of the biggest sources of stress. According to a study, only 22% of young adults can be considered as being financially stable. Lack of knowledge about how to budget, lack of funds to budget with, and lack of extended network support in financial matters all contribute to the financial stresses of the majority.

4. Changing Social Circles

As we grow and change into adulthood, there is a tendency to gradually separate from our childhood friends. We are no longer held by the glue of the same school campus, and our varying experiences of adulting can create gaps in familiarity and understanding. Losing the connections which got us through our younger years can be a sad experience.

It may help to know that the development of friendships is meant to be an ongoing process. As we progress into being our own adult selves, we will continually encounter others who are on a similar leg of the journey. When we move on to subsequent life phases, the same phenomenon will occur. Eventually, once you are settled into your adult life, you will begin to attract the kinds of people who are most compatible with the person you have become.

5. Finding Romance

While some young adults will choose to put off finding romance until after the adult life is secure, many others will succumb to the desire to find that special someone to start building a life with. The young adult years are the time in life when biological forces are being very pushy about the propagation of human existence, and evolution is a strong personality. Even in the absence of hormones and chemistry, it is the drive of many young adults to replace the dwindling friend circle with one, particular, person who can share the emotional load.

Finding that partner who will stick by you as you develop can be a daunting task. All of the previously listed stresses can take a toll on relationships, resulting in arguments, disappointments, and dissolution. If the relationship ends badly, the experience of heartbreak can make the other tasks of young adulthood feel impossible to accomplish.

6. Starting A Family

Fewer young adults are deciding to partner up and have children than in generations past. Reasons cited for delaying – or avoiding – this aspect of life including the availability of birth control options, money concerns, and a desire to continue to experience freedom from the obligations. While some young adults may only benefit from this choice, others may feel stress from the pressure of older generations hassling them to hurry up and settle down.

For those who do take on the task of balancing self-development with starting a family, the stress levels can be exponential. Both partners are still finding out who they are, and the task of growing together, on the same page, is a massive one. To add to the inherent stress of integrating several lives into one, there may simultaneously be cultural pressure to make apologies for not deciding to take the fast-track into a career.


There are a lot of things that cause stress in young adults, but the six things mentioned above seem to be the most common.

If you find yourself experience stress and want a solution, consider taking a step back and consider the fact that you have your whole life ahead of you. There is no rush.

When you’re too hard on yourself, you may experience negative self-talk. A negative internal monologue will have a negative impact on your mindset, confidence, and self-image. This can lead to a problem in the future, so it’s best to seek help if you’re not able to quiet the negative self-talk.

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