It’s not just you – politics is stressing out America’s youth

“I can’t sleep.” - A 16-year-old

“It’s been extremely hard to concentrate.” - A 22-year-old

“It’s been extremely hard to concentrate.” - A 22-year-old

“I got behind in school.” - A 22-year-old

“I feel like I could get killed any second.”- An 18-year-old

“I’m nervous about whether I need to go to school wearing a gas mask.”- A 14-year-old

“I’m scared for my safety.” - A 15-year-old

The current political climate has been difficult for Americans of all political stripes. People have been so stressed that, just before the 2016 presidential election, the American Psychological Association released a list of coping strategies to help adults deal with election-related stress.

The focus has been on adults, yet teens and college-aged Americans are exposed to the same headlines. Turns out – youth are feeling it, too. In our survey of 80 youth across the nation, published Feb. 13, we found that a majority experienced physical or emotional distress before and after the 2016 presidential election.

A barrage of news

For some youth, 2016 may have been their first time voting in a presidential election, engaging in political conversations or even following the news.

Twenty-four-hour-a-day news coverage in print, on the radio, online and on social media ensured that stories related to the election were easily and constantly accessible. One study showed that 54 percent of adults who used social media during the 2016 election were more likely to say the election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress. The news bombarded everyone, but most certainly youth – the most connected of generations.

Stories of harassment and intimidation dominated news coverage after the election. News headlines reported a barrage of painted swastikas and hate speech, minority students being threatened and assaulted and an increased incidence of hate crimes.

These events across the country created anxiety about safety, discrimination and inclusivity in schools and on college campuses.

What youth are saying

In this climate, we wanted to talk to youth about what they were experiencing.

Our team collects weekly survey data from people aged 14 to 24 across the nation via text messages. Immediately before and two weeks and four months after the 2016 presidential election, 80 youth answered open-ended questions about their emotional and physical responses to the election and the new presidential administration.

We learned that the majority of youth were experiencing, and continue to experience, physical or emotional distress in the current political climate. Physical distress – difficulty concentrating, insomnia and overeating – was frequently coupled with emotional distress, including depression, anxiety and fear. Youth felt overwhelmed and exhausted throughout the election season.

Comments (2)
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I agree. The pressure is intense now, and I really don't see a lessening going forward- for this generation or the future ones.


Stress overall is increasing among young adults. And social media is certainly not helping things, unfortunately.