The drive to be perfect in body, mind and career among today's college students has
increased by more than a third over the past three decades, says a new study.
The researchers suggest that perfectionism entails "an irrational desire to achieve along
with being overly critical of oneself and others."
The study, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, suggests that rise in
perfectionism among young adults is being driven by a number of factors.
For example, the data suggest that social media use pressures young adults to perfect
themselves in comparison to others, which makes them dissatisfied with their bodies and
increases social isolation.
The drive to earn money, pressure to get a good education and setting lofty career goals
are other areas in which today's young people exhibit perfectionism, the study said.
The researchers also pointed to a rise in meritocracy among millennials, in which
universities encourage competition among students to move up the social and economic
"Meritocracy places a strong need for young people to strive, perform and achieve in
modern life," said lead author Thomas Curran of University of Bath in Britain.
"Young people are responding by reporting increasingly unrealistic educational and
professional expectations for themselves. As a result, perfectionism is rising among
millennials," Curran said.
They measured three types of perfectionism — self-oriented, or an irrational desire to be
perfect; socially prescribed, or perceiving excessive expectations from others; and other-
oriented, or placing unrealistic standards on others.
Specifically, between 1989 and 2016, the self-oriented perfectionism score increased by
10 per cent, socially prescribed increased by 33 per cent and other-oriented increased by
16 per cent, the study said.
The increase in perfectionism may in part be affecting the psychological health of
students, said study co-author Andrew Hill of York St John University in England.
Pratibha Elin Lakra