Millennials are experiencing work stress and burnout at disturbingly high rates. Previously, career burnout was a midlife issue. Now it is happening early on, at the beginning of people’s careers.
Young workers are showing signs of burnout by asking for time off or reduced work hours, or are opting out altogether and moving back with their parents. There is also a trend for young people to start their own companies that have more relaxed work schedules. Other signs include the increased use of alternative relaxation methods, such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture. These are the healthy ways to handle stress.
The problem is, a growing number of young workers are not handling stress in a healthy way. They are turning to drugs—namely performance enhancement drugs, such as Adderall and other stimulants. In recent years, use of A.D.H.D. medication has almost doubled among adults 26 to 34, according to a New York Times investigation. And this is only measured as prescription use.
Many young workers are getting drugs illegally. In prescription form, young adults are getting rapid and incomplete ADHD diagnoses to procure the drug and are sometimes going to multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions. In non-prescription form, young adults are buying it from dealers. Either way, they are taking too much.
Young workers report high performance expectations and levels of competition are reasons for turning to stimulant abuse. Abuse of performance enhancement drugs has been going on in colleges for a while. These same students are growing up and continuing the abuse as they enter the workplace.
Burnout and drug abuse are caused because healthy coping mechanisms are missing. One contributing factor is that the millennial generation has been raised by overprotective parents who have not given their kids opportunities to develop resilience and coping strategies. Instead, they have placed high levels of stress and extraordinary expectations for achievement on their children.
Now that millennials are grown up, it is time for them to develop healthy coping mechanisms for work demands and stress. Running away and turning to drugs won’t fix the problem. Developing resilience and setting reasonable expectations for success will.