Stress Dynamics: How the Different Generations Handle Stress

In today's fast-paced world, stress has become an inevitable part of our lives. A significant portion of Americans – 39% – rate their weekly stress levels as either "stressed" or "very stressed." However, the way we perceive and manage stress varies significantly across generations. 


Brightfield Group's recent report, Winding Down & Amping Up, looks into the generational dynamics of stress and how different age groups are navigating this universal challenge. Let’s explore the highlights.


The Ubiquity of Stress

Brightfield Group's Wellness Consumer Insights reveal that nearly half of Americans frequently deal with anxiety and stress. Getting into the data, the generational divide is pronounced. Zooming into the most stressed individuals,  28% of Americans report experiencing anxiety.  But this percentage isn't evenly distributed across generations. Gen Z, millennials, and Gen X have anxiety levels ranging between 33% to 39%. In stark contrast, only 16% of baby boomers report feeling anxious. 


With the current economic and social challenges, it's evident that those with a longer future horizon are feeling the pressure more acutely. But at the same time, Gen Xers and younger people with additional access to mental health resources throughout their lives may just be able to label their anxiety more accurately.  Let's explore how the generations are experiencing stress. 

Gen Z - Anxiety as a Distraction

By the data, Gen Z consumers (age 18-26)  are the most likely to experience anxiety. For the youngest adult generation, distractions are a significant source of stress. They are transitioning from schooling into the workforce, and staying focused amidst the stress is a problem they have to solve. 


As such, we see many Gen Zers are turning to energy-boosting products to combat distractions. Energy drinks are especially popular among young consumers. With a plethora of traditional and wellness-oriented energy drinks hitting mainstream shelves, there are more ways now than ever for Gen Zers to get a jolt of energy. Caffeine is still the primary functional ingredient, but L-theanine, taurine, B12, and matcha are other ingredients we see young consumers reaching for.

Millennials & Gen X - Anxiety Becomes Physical

For millennials and Gen Xers, their relaxation is more physical. For many within these age brackets, stress isn't just a mental challenge; it manifests physically. Gut health is of concern to these consumers, and they also report migraines at higher rates. As such, stressed millennials and Gen Xers are more likely to report relieving stress through taking prescription medicines.

Baby Boomers - Anxiety Undefined or Masters of Relaxation?

Lastly, there are the baby boomers. While this group doesn’t report anxiety nearly as much as other generations, part of the reason is likely due to their lack of education on mental health. The stigmatization of mental health conditions is hardly ending, with treatment more accepted and talking about struggles no longer extremely taboo. However, this stigma is still most prevalent in older generations.

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Still, 21% of baby boomers say they experience “no stress.” For the other generations, that goes down to 9%. When asked about their sources of stress, baby boomers under-index for stressors bothering the younger generations - like money, work, and mental health conditions. However, baby boomers are uniquely stressed by the news. 


Baby boomers' lack of stress may also be due to employing more effective stress-relief tactics. While other generations are exploring various methods to soothe themselves, baby boomers are more likely to rely on traditional, time-tested methods like going for a walk, connecting with friends, and getting enough sleep. 




The dynamics of stress and relaxation are evolving, with each generation carving its path. As we move forward, understanding these generational nuances becomes crucial for wellness brands and society at large. After all, a society that understands stress is better equipped to combat it.


Brightfield Group's "Winding Down & Amping Up" report offers insights into this critical area, shedding light on the generational stress dynamics and providing a roadmap for a more relaxed, focused future.


See all the insights into how Americans wind down and amp up in our report!



Published: 10/11/2023