If life feels more stressful now than it did a few decades ago, or even before the COVID-19 started, you're not alone, a new study has found that life may be more stressful now than it was in the 1990s.

The researchers from Penn State University found that across all ages, there was a slight increase in daily stress in the 2010s compared to the 1990s. But when they restricted the sample to people between the ages of 45 and 64, there was a sharp increase in daily stress.

"On average, people reported about 2 per cent more stressors in the 2010s compared to people in the past," said study researcher David M Almeida from Penn State. "That's around an additional week of stress a year. But what really surprised us is that people at mid-life reported a lot more stressors, about 19 per cent more stress in 2010 than in 1990. And that translates to 64 more days of stress a year," Almeida said.

For the study, published in the journal American Psychologist, the research team used data collected from 1,499 adults in 1995 and 782 different adults in 2012. All study participants were interviewed daily for eight consecutive days. During each daily interview, the researchers asked the participants about their stressful experiences throughout the previous 24 hours. For example, arguments with family or friends or feeling overwhelmed at home or work.

The participants were also asked how severe their stress was and whether those stressors were likely to impact other areas of their lives.

"We were able to estimate not only how frequently people experienced stress, but also what those stressors mean to them," Almeida said.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that participants reported significantly more daily stress and lower well-being in the 2010s compared to the 1990s.

Additionally, participants reported a 27 per cent increase in the belief that stress would affect their finances and a 17 per cent increase in the belief that stress would affect their future plans.

Almeida said he was surprised not that people were more stressed now than in the 90s, but at the age group that was mainly affected. "We thought that with economic uncertainty, life might be more stressful for younger adults. But we didn't see that," Almeida said.

"We saw more stress for people at mid-life. And maybe that's because they have children who are facing an uncertain job market while also responsible for their own parents. So it's this generational squeeze that's making stress more prevalent for people at mid-life," Almeida concluded.