Husky Herald Article

UW performs research on the lives of young adults

Michelle Fessler and Alia M. Kusumaningrat Staff Writers

Whether they are enrolled in school or not, employed or unemployed, or living at home or on their own, nearly all young adults aged 18 to 23 have one factor in common: stress.

What Project Transitions is interested in is the patterns of when and where stress occurs as people transition from their teen years into adulthood. Project Transitions, a federally funded research study at the University of Washington, is spearheaded by Dr. Christine Lee. Lee is core member at the Center of Health and Risk Behaviors (CSHRB). The CSHRB is a research center housed within the University of Washington’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and aims to eradicate the harm caused by engagement in a variety of risk behaviors.

The research essentially seeks to understand how young adults respond to and navigate changes. Lee’s team tries to pinpoint what types of events—both on a small and bigger scale— are more stressful than others and how they relate to health and behaviors.

“The time between 18-23 [years of age] is very exciting, there are many opportunities for young adults, yet we also know this is a time that can be extremely stressful,” wrote Lee in an email. “Overwhelmingly we have heard how hard it is to manage daily life (and paying for immediate needs like rent and food) while trying to find the time and energy to think about or figure out what the next steps might be and how to actively get there.”

In her email, Lee pointed out that the average college student would finish their undergraduate studies with $25,000 in debt. Unemployment rates are twice as high for young workers, even without taking different education backgrounds into account. Millennials — people reaching young adulthood around the year 2000 — are more likely than any other generation to say they experience loneliness and isolation due to stress.

Project Transitions claims to be one of the first studies to branch out and analyze the different areas of life in people aged 18 to 23. Instead of only focusing on education or work, this study looks at the intersections of many different factors that affect change in the lives of young adults. It has also prided itself in ensuring that its participants are of diverse backgrounds e.g. race, ethnicity, education, and lifestyles.

“Traditionally, this work has been over[ly] focused on college students and has neglected other valued groups such as those who are not in college, working part or full-time, or go into the military,” wrote Lee.

No event is too small or too big for Project Transitions. Lee wrote that graduating high school, going on a first date, or even getting into an argument with a roommate are all equally important issues in shaping the transitions of young adults.

Project Transitions is looking for 18 to 23 year-olds with different life experiences who live in the Seattle area, including King, Kitsap, Island, Pierce, Snohomish and Thurston counties, to participate in their project. Participants will take paid monthly online surveys over the course of 36 months, and can earnup to $770 in gift cards. Many University of Washington Bothell students fall into this demographic. According to the UWB fast facts, 71 percent of the school’s student body is aged 17 to 25 years of age.

“Ultimately, we aim to understand and help young adults make healthy and successful transitions to adulthood,” Lee wrote. More information can be found on Project Transitions website and its Facebook page,