Who Handles Job Stress Better – Older Employees or Younger Ones?

No matter what your occupation, work can be stressful. There are deadlines, clients, policies and procedures, management changes, layoffs… there’s always the potential for something stressful and frustrating to sidetrack your productivity.


We’re all stressed at work from time to time! Will it always be that way? Will it get worse? Do we get more stressed at work as we get older?


Studies have shown that as we age, we actually get less stressed out about our work. The older we are, the better our attitudes about our jobs become, at least for most of us. We also are more likely to experience positive thinking on the job, and solve frustrating problems more quickly. Researchers believe that much of this is related to experience. The more experience we have on the job, the more we can put our frustrations into perspective, and the more quickly we can deal with them positively and confidently.


Another reason workers over age 35 appear to have less stress is that we tend to master the concept of work-life balance the older we get. When we’re early in our careers, work-life balance can be a frustrating challenge. We always seem to be getting it wrong, particularly as we add the demands of new parenthood (and its accompanying guilt!) on to the challenges of our jobs. Studies show that as we age, we seem to find it easier to strike the balance that works for us.


Finally, employees who have been on the job longer seem to have more realistic expectations of what their companies will do for them, and what they expect from them in return. As we stay in our jobs longer, we gain a better understanding of the implied contract between our employers and ourselves, whereas younger employees tend to get more frustrated if they believe an unspoken promise is being breached.


Not all career paths, however, get less stressful the older we get. Nurses, in particular, seem to get more stressed the longer they remain in their careers. It seems relevant that nurses also reported feeling less job security as they got older, while many of the other careers, like service sector workers and teachers, reported feeling more secure in their jobs the longer they were there.


In fact, job security is the one area in which young employees beat employees over 35 as it relates to stress. Overall, younger employees in most fields felt very secure in their position, which is one major stressor removed from them. So there are many benefits but one significant drawback when it comes to work stress as we get older.


If you’re under 35, here’s what can you do to be less stressed now:


  • Find a work-life balance that works for YOU. There is no universal magic formula for being a good parent and a good employee.
  • Learn what coping skills work best for you, so you can overcome stress more quickly.
  • Approach your work with realistic expectations about what the company and you “owe” one another.


If you are over 35, here’s what can you do to be less stressed as you age:


  • Take as much control as you can over your job security by being a workplace leader and mentor, staying innovative, remaining up-to-date with technology, and continuing to build on your responsibilities.
  • At the same time, boost your confidence that you would survive a potential job hunt by getting involved now in professional associations, staying up-to-date on certifications and research in your field, and continually networking, both in-person and online.


Whatever your job and whatever your age, you are likely to experience job stress. But there are ways to manage it, and it seems to get easier the older you get.