Fast Food, High Stress


Sarah Morrison, Staff Writer

Have you ever stopped and wondered, “Why do teenagers have jobs in the most stressful and important time in their lives?” Chances are, you never have, but you should. Having a job can be stressful, but being a student with a job adds on to that stress. Some jobs expect students to go to work right after the school day ends. Why is that? Don’t we, as students, already have enough things that we have to worry about? The most common jobs that students apply for are within the food service industry. A fast food job isn’t a position that many people want, but there is always a high demand for people to fill those jobs. 

Some students may need or want jobs for different reasons, such as to support their family, to earn their own money or to save up for their first car; the list goes on and on. No matter what the reason is, the stress levels often get overlooked by teachers, parents, and peers. A majority of students work in food service, especially fast food. Working in fast food establishments as a student is a difficult job, more difficult than some people think. It’s a very fast paced environment, and the customers seem more obnoxious than ever. You can take their order as perfect as it can be, and most customers will still find a way to complain and scream at a 17-year-old. “It feels stressful, because in a job environment where the customer is ‘always right,’ there’s not much you can do but take the verbal abuse from customers,” says Mark Gil, a senior who works at a fast food restaurant. “You just have to pretend that it doesn’t bother you, or you can get in serious trouble. Working in an environment like that does have an impact on my mental health. There’s days where I’m so drained, but yet I still come into work. I lose sleep and socialization, but gain stress and pressure.” 

As a fast food worker myself, going to school six hours a day and going straight to work impacts my mental health greatly. There have been times where a customer screams at me for something that isn’t my fault, and I just have to stand there and say nothing; if we react, we can get in trouble, or even fired. Sometimes the insults they throw are so bad, that some coworkers have had to go into the back room to either cry or calm themselves down and collect their emotions. I’ve come across many customers that even said inappropriate things to me when I was under 18. “Work definitely affects my mental health in many ways,”  says sophomore Ava Zimic, “my work is only open on weekends, and I can’t see my friends, or relax as much as I would like to after a long week at school.” As far as working with the public, Ava says, “Sometimes the customers are so rude and blame management rules on me. The customers don’t see me as a person, more like a robot. They make me feel like a horrible person because they degrade me for making a mistake, everyone makes a mistake once in a while.”

As if the verbal abuse from customers isn’t enough, the treatment that we student workers get from our own managers is horrible. Of course you’ll always have that boss that you don’t like, but the management in fast food isn’t talked about that often either. What they and society fail to realize is that when you go to these kinds of establishments, the student workers are constantly working and keeping the flow of customers going, most of the time without management’s help; it feels like we’re being taken advantage of for our age, and that we’re scared to say “no” if we’re asked to stay later than we were scheduled. I’ve even had times at work where I would have to clock out, but I would still be working due to someone calling out or not showing up for their shift; I did work that I didn’t get paid for.  Some parts of management also don’t treat us like our age, but expect us to do double the work we’re supposed to do. Another thing is being short-staffed in the fast food industry. Food service is one of the most stressful jobs you can work, which is why there are frequent staff shortages. Often, I will be working two or three stations at a time, when really, we’re only supposed to work one; that adds on to the unnecessary, piling stress. The food service industry has that constant need for employees, because more and more people are starting to realize that it’s one of the worst jobs to have, and they’re given better opportunities.  Now, I’m not saying that the job is difficult physically. It’s challenging mentally and emotionally; constantly having to hold your tongue or lose your job within a heartbeat is more difficult than people think. The hours feel longer when you work, and the job isn’t easy when you have a customer yelling at you for something you don’t control, such as prices of food items. Hearing the repetitive beeping of the drive thru censor brings the constant feeling of aggravation. 

Now back to mental health issues that we student workers face. According to studies cited by, 73% of students have a mental health disorder, and about ¾ of those students have a mental health crisis when multitasking school grades, homework, and a job. The same study shows that students working while in school can develop anxiety disorders from the amount of stress and pressure we’re put under by management. Statistics also show that 22% of student workers are depressed, which is almost a quarter of all student workers. Statistics also show that depression affects performance 35% of the time. 

Student workers do not get the recognition they deserve. With these powerful statistics, it goes to show that a lot of students start working before their mental health is stable. Student workers often put working before their mental health. 

* Image via under the Creative Commons license