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Millennials Strive for Perfection to Their Harm

An article in USA Today reports that the American Psychological Association has published new research exploring the rise of perfectionism in young people. Compared to prior generations, today's college students are harder on themselves, more demanding of others, and report higher levels of social pressure to be perfect.

The study examined over 40,000 college students who took a special survey between 1989 and 2016. The more recent students scored higher in all three forms of perfectionism. Between 1989 and 2016, the scores for socially prescribed perfectionism—or perceiving the excessive expectations of others—increased by 33 percent. Other-oriented expectations—putting unrealistic expectations on others—went up 16 percent, and self-oriented perfectionism—our irrational desire to be perfect—increased 10 percent.

One of the lead researchers concluded, "Today's young people are competing with each other in order to meet societal pressures to succeed and they feel that perfectionism is necessary in order to feel safe, socially connected and of worth." Unfortunately, perfectionism can lead to anxiety, clinical depression, anorexia, and other health issues.

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