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Survey: Teens are just as stressed as adults

Tuesday - 2/11/2014, 6:03pm  ET

WASHINGTON - American teens say they are just as stressed out as adults.

The American Psychological Association surveyed 1,950 adults and 1,018 teens for the APA's annual Stress in America report.

Teens taking part in the survey indicated they are plenty stressed out, especially during the school year.

The APA says there is concern that teens are learning unhealthy behavior patterns associated with stress that can have a big impact throughout their lives.

Katherine Nordal, the association's executive director for professional practice, says like their stressed elders, teens are having trouble maintaining a healthy lifestyle. They are missing out on sleep, falling way short on exercise, and eating a diet heavy on all the wrong foods.

While many of us would like to think teen years are carefree, Nordal says that doesn't seem to be the case at all.

"The predominant stressor reported by teens is school and school life and the pressure to succeed academically," she says.

Other sources of stress include work and relationship tensions. Nordal also says kids feel the tension when there are financial problems at home.

"We know when parents are stressed about these kinds of things, kids and teenagers are good about picking up on them," she says.

The problem is the way they cope with this stress is too often to sit by a video game, and overdo it on junk food. Nordal says it becomes a vicious cycle.

"We engage in unhealthy behaviors when we are really stressed," she explains, "and those unhealthy behaviors tend to increase those levels of stress rather than decrease them."

The best way for parents to help break that cycle is to lead by example and adopt a healthy lifestyle including more nutritious meals, family exercise and better sleep patterns.

She says even though teenagers may push for independence, they still see their parents as big role models, and "learn what they live."

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