Our Research

Young Women and Stress Survey Findings

By Adeola Matamni, Brianna Jackson, Chelsea Whitis, and Amber Burwell

We are four young women who live in Rogers Park on the Northside of Chicago. We are members of a local youth-led group called the Young Women’s Action Team (YWAT). We joined the YWAT in September 2006 because we were interested in making a difference in our community.

Over the past four years, the core leaders of YWAT have taken on issues like street harassment and teen dating violence. We are interested in those topics too but we wanted to make our own contribution to the group. We decided to tackle an issue that is related to violence – and that is STRESS. As teen girls, many of us are dealing with so much stress, we are feeling pressure because of school, our families, money problems, friends, and sometimes our neighborhoods. We thought to ourselves – if this is a problem for us then it must also affect other young women. We decided to conduct research and were able to receive some training about youth-led research from the Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL) at Loyola University and the University of Michigan. We spent two days in January 2007 learning all about the methods and uses of research. We spent the next few months creating and administering a survey and also hosted a focus group with eight young women. The following is a summary of what we found through our research.


We collected 175 surveys from young women ages 11 to 19 years old.

67.8% of our survey respondents are 13 to 15 years old.

52% of the young women who responded to our survey are Black; 22.3% are Latina; 12.6% identified as mixed race; 3.4% are white and 2.9% are Asian.

Some Key Information

The top three things that caused our survey respondents the most amount of stress were school (84%); family (61.1%), and friends (54.3%). This was followed by boyfriend/girlfriend (39.4%), money/finances (32%), and neighborhood (22.3%).

28.6% of young women surveyed have considered suicide.

47.4% of young women personally know between 1 and 5 girls and young women (under the age of 18) who have considered suicide. 8.2% personally know more than 10 girls and young women (under the age of 18) who have considered suicide!

Good News

77.7% of young women are either doing well or at least average at getting enough sleep at night.

70.9% of young women do well at avoiding alcohol and drugs.

78.3% of young women surveyed said that they are doing well or at least average at allowing themselves to cry.

82.4% of young women do well or at least average at scheduling time for fun and enjoyable activities.

Room for Improvement

Almost a third (29.7%) of young women surveyed said that they need to improve at eating nutritious foods and avoiding junk food.

29.9% of young women said that they need to improve at talking out problems with friends and family.

37.3% of young women need to improve at expressing their anger constructively (without using any forms of violence).

32.2% of young women said that they need to improve at exercising.

32.8% of young women said that they need to improve at not taking on more than they can handle (learning to say NO).

40.9% of young women responded that they need to improve at taking action to improve their community (through social action, volunteering, donations).

Practical Implications

We asked our survey respondents to circle the top three resources that they would like to have. The following are the responses.

Massages 68.8%
Free exercise classes for teens 53.5%
Someone to talk to regularly about my problems 52.9%
Yoga classes 38.2%
Counseling (from teens my own age) 22.9%
Workshops about how to relieve stress 22.4%
Counseling (from a professional social workers/therapist) 20%
Information about nutrition 19.4%

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