- Millennials and Gen Z are more anxious than previous generations: here’s why
- Tougher path
- Mental illness stigma persists
- Social media's impact
- Why Gen Z Is the Most Stressed Generation | The University Network
- Stressed about the state of the nation
- Personal life stressors
- Managing stress
- Generation Z’s Mental Health Issues
- Generation Z Battles Anxiety and Depression
- Why Is Generation Z so Depressed?
- Generation Z and Suicide
- Mental Health of Generation Z People of Color
- COVID-19’s Effect on Generation Z’s Mental Health
- How Employment Stress During COVID-19 Impacted Gen Z’s Mental Health
- How Education Stress During COVID-19 Impacted Gen Z’s Mental Health
- More Resources on Generation Z
Millennials and Gen Z are more anxious than previous generations: here’s why
The Harvard Business Review recently published findings of a study on mental health in the workplace that paints a bleak picture of anxiety among young people.
In a survey, half of millennials, those between 24 and 39, said they'd left a job at least partly for mental health reasons. For Gen Z-those between 18 and 23-the percentage spikes to 75, compared with just 20 per cent among the general population.
The results of the study, published by the mental health advocacy group Mind Share Partners, are one measure of how serious anxiety and depression have become among today's youth.
At the University of Alberta, for example, its website states that 35 per cent of students will experience a panic attack due to stress at some point, and mental health advisers on campus say requests for help with anxiety and depression are sharply rising.
In the 2016 Canadian National College Health Assessment, 65 per cent of post-secondary students reported experiencing «overwhelming anxiety» in the previous year, and 13 per cent had considered suicide.
One popular explanation is the «snowflake» thesis-that today's youth have been coddled by helicopter parents and allowed to avoid the responsibility and independence that foster mental resilience.
But U of A sociologist Lisa Strohschein says that view sells young people short, and they really do have it tougher than previous generations, especially when it comes to employment prospects.
She has just finished writing a chapter outlining the traits of every living generation for a new sociology textbook called New Society, set for release next year.
«Millennials went through the Great Recession of 2008, ended up having to take jobs that weren't leading anywhere, and that has pretty much continued today…. If you're in a dead-end job, that's stress producing.
«In the last 50 years, the expectation has been that each generation will do better than the one before it. This is the first generation where that's not necessarily true,» she said.
Late millennials and Gen Z are also delaying many of the milestones of adulthood previous generations took for granted, she said.
«They're not homeowners, they're not in relationships, they're not getting married. They're living in the basement of their parents' home. There's all kinds of things that have frustrated their efforts to get ahead.
«The generation as a whole is among the most educated it has ever been, but the path to success is also less clear.»
The nature of work itself has also become more stressful and competitive, leaving young people with precious little downtime, said Sheena Abar-Iyamu, community social work co-ordinator with U of A Student Services.
«There's a lot of time you have to put in these days, and you don't always get time off to rejuvenate,» she said, adding that millennials are often reluctant to appear weak when work pressure jeopardizes their mental health.
At the same time, millennials and Gen Z are far more conscious of mental health issues-and more able to articulate them-than their parents were, said Sarah Flower, manager of health promotion for the U of A's Human Resource Services. It may be that when older generations such as boomers or Gen X quit jobs in the past, they just didn't call it a mental health issue.
«This generation is much more in tune with what they need. People will say, 'I have anxiety,' or, 'I've been diagnosed with depression'-they are very open to sharing that.»
Mental illness stigma persists
And yet the stigma persists. According to the Mind Share Partners study, young people may be more aware of precisely what ails them but are reluctant to talk about it at work.
«Some young professionals are attempting to cope with mental health issues in the workplace for the first time,» said Blessie Mathew, director of the U of A's Career Centre.
«They're worried about optics and stigma and often put their needs and health aside for too long. They then reach the point where addressing their mental health and working at the same time is no longer possible.»
While the challenges of adulthood may be greater today, Flower suspects a decline in mental resilience may also contribute to increased rates of anxiety among youth.
«What I see in my friends' children is that their parents have always been there to help them through problems,» she said. «When they have to confront problems themselves, they don't have the basic skills to draw upon, and they start to panic.»
The past few decades have also seen the rise of the self-esteem movement in education, where students are rewarded for effort and participation with less regard for performance.
For older generations, said Flower, «It was very clear there were winners and losers. Now we don't allow as much for competition.
«We don't allow for failure, but failure is one of the greatest assets you can learn. It teaches you to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and not make the same mistake twice.»
Today's students also tend to recoil even from constructive criticism, she said.
«I've provided feedback to people and they dissolve into tears. They have less ability to say to themselves, 'That was a really hard day, but I'm going to bounce back and do it again tomorrow.'»
For whatever reason, both millennials and Gen Z have been slow to embrace adulthood with enthusiasm, said Stroschein, along with the independence that used to be attractive to teenagers. «Adulting» has now become a verb, as if one had a choice in the matter.
Take driving, for example. More and more young people are foregoing a licence these days, since they're used to their parents chauffeuring them.
«For our generation,» said Stroschein, «getting a driver's licence was a huge marker of independence. Now, and in record numbers, young people just don't see this as something that concerns them.»
According to a study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, just 25 per cent of 16-year-olds had a driver's licence in 2014, compared with 46 per cent in 1983. By the age of 19, 69 per cent had licences in 2014, compared with 87 per cent in 1983.
But as with most generalizations, there are contradictions in the generational profile, said Stroschein, noting that millennials also tend to be open-minded and environmentally conscious, «have an unshakable faith that they can make a positive difference in the world, and are always looking for new experiences.»
Social media's impact
Social media is another crucial factor in the anxiety that plagues Gen Z especially, according to Jean Twenge,a psychology professor at San Diego State University and the author of Generation Me and iGen.
In an Atlantic article called «Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?» she argues smartphones have radically altered the nature of social interactions-and consequently mental health.
Noting that rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011, she claims it's no exaggeration to describe iGen (an alternate term for Gen Z) as «being on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.
«iGen teens have more leisure time than Gen X teens did, not less,» she writes. «So what are they doing with all that time? They are on their phone, in their room, alone and often distressed.»
She points to a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that shows teens who spend more time than average on screen media activities-about four hours in the U.S. and three hours in Canada, according to Stats Canada-are more ly to be unhappy. Those who spend less time than average on non-screen media activities are more ly to be happy.
«(Youth) are far more connected to people outside of Canada and their own local neighbourhoods, or virtually connected,» said Strohschein. «The downside is they're socially isolated in their local communities.»
That isolation might be seriously hampering their social confidence, she added.
«In my mental illness class, I make them do group facilitation. Each week one group takes responsibility for facilitating the class discussion, and the anxiety that they have-to stand up in front of the room-it just grows every year.»
In the end, both generations may turn out just fine, the disproportionate anxiety nothing more than an inevitable symptom of seismic cultural and technological shifts.
«They're a very creative generation that doesn't take no for an answer, so I think there are so many good things to come,» said Flower.
«The challenge is building a mental health framework so they don't fall apart in the meantime.»
Why Gen Z Is the Most Stressed Generation | The University Network
Members of Generation Z — those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s — report having worse stress than any other generation, according to an American Psychological Association (APA) report.
In part, these heightened stress levels are caused by the 24/7 news cycle, which continuously focuses on gun violence, sexual assault and other tragedies.
But Gen Z individuals, many of whom are in college, are also more stressed out about personal problems, including concerns about money, work and health — headaches that have, seemingly, been around forever.
The APA survey featured responses from 3,458 adults and 300 teens between the ages of 15-17. Overall, only 45 percent of Gen Z individuals reported having “very good” mental health, compared to 56 percent of millenials, 51 percent of Gen Xers, 70 percent of baby boomers and 73 percent of older adults.
“There are real stressors for younger adults that I think older generations didn’t have to experience,” said Vaile Wright, a licensed psychologist and APA researcher.
Stressed about the state of the nation
School shootings, rising suicide rates, climate change, immigration and sexual harassment dominate the 24/7 news cycle.
The lack of positive news is disconcerting for those of all generations, but for members of Gen Z, each negative story is a reminder of the future they face.
Subsequently, this has driven many young people to be more politically active.
Taking action makes people feel more in control, which helps to mitigate their stress.
“Part of what causes the heightened level of stress is the level of uncertainty about what’s happening in the world,” Wright said.
“The challenge with uncertainty is that it reminds us of all the things that are our control,” she continued. “So, when we do contribute in ways to our community, whether that’s taking active steps to vote, volunteering in community-level organizations or participating in protests, those are really active steps that people can take to manage their stress.”
However, despite their increased passion, Gen Zs are the least ly to vote.
This is ly due to a lack of faith in the institution of voting, Wright said. Young people may now feel that the most effective way to contribute to politics comes through activism.
Personal life stressors
Personal problems, specifically concerns about money, work and health, are big stressors for nearly all adults, but they are more common amongst Gen Z individuals.
Money concerns affect 81 percent of those in Gen Z, compared to 64 percent of adults overall. Seventy-seven percent of Gen Zs report being stressed about work, compared to 64 percent of adults overall. And despite their youth, 75 percent of Gen Z adults report being stressed out about their health, compared to 63 percent of adults overall, according to the report.
Entering the workforce isn’t as easy as it once was.
“In particular with younger generations, what we’re seeing are individuals who are coming school with higher levels of debt than previous generations,” said Wright. “Oftentimes, the jobs they are entering into are not as high paying as in previous generations.”
Because of this, many Gen Z adults end up doing side work, which puts more stress on them because it continues that level of uncertainty, Wright said.
“They aren’t sure where their money is coming from, how much they are going to be able to make and whether they are going to be able to pay their bills,” she continued.
However, Wright acknowledges that some of the heightened levels of stress may be a result of youth and inexperience.
“We know, through our surveys, that younger generations, whether it is generation Z or millenials, always report higher levels of stress, so an additional reason could be, that compared to older generations, younger generations may have not built up the set of coping skills required to effectively manage all of the stressors they are experiencing.”
Gen Zs are more in touch with their mental wellbeing than members of older generations.
As the stigma surrounding mental health starts to fade, more young people are willing to accept their mental health issues and seek help, if necessary.
However, many of them still struggle. Only 50 percent of Gen Zs feel that they are doing enough to address their mental health, according to the report.
Naturally, many Gen Zs turn to social media as a support mechanism, but this only helps 55 percent of them, according to the report. The other 45 percent claim that social media makes them feel judged.
It isn’t healthy for people to be constantly connected to their phones, Wright said. This can make individuals feel isolated.
Instead, Wright advises young people to take active steps and engage in self-care to manage their mental health.
“If we can’t take care of ourselves, it is hard to be problem solvers for other people or make change in the world,” she said.
Generation Z’s Mental Health Issues
Members of Generation Z — individuals born between 1995 and 2010 — are growing up in an age of increased stress and anxiety. Some 70% of teens across all genders, races and family-income levels say that anxiety and depression are significant problems among their peers, according to the Pew Research Center.
Generation Z Battles Anxiety and Depression
Just 45% of Gen Zers report that their mental health is very good or excellent, according to the American Psychological Association. All other generation groups fared better on this statistic, including Millennials (56%), Gen Xers (51%) and Boomers (70%).
While Generation Z has been called the most depressed generation, members of this group are more ly than their older peers to seek out mental health counseling or therapy. Some 37% of Gen Zers — a higher rate than any previous generation — report having worked with a mental health professional
Why Is Generation Z so Depressed?
Gen Z faces chronic stress from many factors including school shootings, student debt, joblessness and even politics.
Technology plays a role, too. Growing up in a hyper-connected world can evoke intense feelings of isolation and loneliness in some youth. It can also fuel a steady drumbeat of negative news stories, a fear of missing out, and shame in falling short of a social media-worthy standard.
Instagram, for instance, has been found to negatively impact the mental health of teenagers, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The popular photo-based social media platform is particularly hard on young women; it is credited with worsening body image issues for 1 in every 3 teenage girls, the report says.
Generation Z and Suicide
The suicide rate for individuals of all ages in the United States increased 30% from 2000 to 2016 and peaked for youth in 2017, according to a new study by the JAMA Network of medical journals.
Contributing to the high youth depression and suicide rates in America are social media use and a greater willingness of families and officials to acknowledge suicide as a cause of death, the JAMA study authors said.
Data shows that suicide rates vary across genders and races or ethnicities.
Women are more ly to attempt suicide but men are more ly to die by suicide, per the National Institute of Mental Health. In 2018, for instance, the suicide rate for men was 3.7 times higher than it was for women, and white men represented 70% of these fatalities.
For young adults between the ages of 15 to 24, non-Hispanic American Indians have the highest suicide rate followed by Alaska Natives and white youth.
Rates remain low among both Black and Hispanic youth as well as Asian or Pacific Islanders, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, Gen Zers of color are more ly than their white peers to encounter issue-specific stress, such as fears tied to food insecurity, housing instability or debt.
For young people from historically underrepresented communities, drawing on cultural roots through evidence-based programs offer the greatest opportunities for preventing suicide.
Explore data on teen deaths by accident, homicide or suicide by state, as well as how to reduce the teen death rate.
Mental Health of Generation Z People of Color
In communities of color, mental illness and mental health care is often stigmatized.
University of Texas at Austin professor Melissa DuPont-Reyes surveyed 667 sixth-graders from an urban school system in Texas. She found that girls and white boys were more knowledgeable and positive about mental illness and care when compared to boys and teens of color.
People of color are more ly to suppress, downplay or ignore their emotions altogether, according to research. Mental illness in these communities can incur a badge of shame, and — even when Black and Latino youth opt to seek help — they can struggle to find a professional who understands their unique cultural backgrounds and concerns.
A lack of mental health services for adolescents in Latino and African American communities elevates their risk of developing depression. Racial and ethnic disparities in health insurance coverage plays a role, too, as more people of color lack the resources to get the help they need.
COVID-19’s Effect on Generation Z’s Mental Health
COVID-19 has had a significant impact — already — on Generation Z. The pandemic has radically changed their educational and social experiences. It shifted learning online. Destabilized economies. Robbed young people of a parent or loved one. And prompted some older siblings to juggle new roles as teachers and caregivers for their families.
Unsurprisingly, mental health concerns have climbed during the pandemic. Across the world, rates of depression and anxiety rose by more than 25% in 2020, according to research published in the Lancet.
Younger age groups saw greater increases than older groups, with 20- to 24-year-olds enduring the largest leaps of all.
In the United States, the rate of depression climbed in 2021 to nearly 33% — with 1 in every 3 Americans age 18 or older affected, per a study Boston University.
Read more about how the pandemic is disrupting the lives of children and families.
How Employment Stress During COVID-19 Impacted Gen Z’s Mental Health
The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred an economic crisis that is changing the world of work for young people.
One study, conducted with June 2020 data from the U.S.
Census Bureau data, determined that 59% of young adults ages 18 to 26 had experienced direct or household unemployment since the start of the pandemic and 38% were anticipating such a loss in the next four weeks.
The same study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that this impending or actual employment loss was associated with a greater risk of poor mental health.
Many recent college graduates are in “survival mode” after having their job offers rescinded or put on hold, reports CNBC. Entering the job market during a pandemic — and at a time when unemployment rates remain high — is even forcing some members of Generation Z to look for jobs outside of their envisioned career path.
How Education Stress During COVID-19 Impacted Gen Z’s Mental Health
Schools act as a safety net for many young people and families. They offer engaging learning environments but also consistent meals, medical screenings and support services. In some areas, schools are the only source of mental health services for young people — particularly for individuals who identify as LGBTQ and for individuals from low-income households or a family of color.
When the pandemic hit, millions of teachers and students across the country shifted to remote learning. This drastic change altered and — in some cases — erased the broader benefits that schools supply. It also separated students from their familiar social structures and networks.
This new normal wasn’t easy. Nearly 3 in 10 parents surveyed in a May 2020 Gallup poll said that their child was «experiencing harm» to their emotional or mental health because of social distancing and school closures while 45% cited separation from teachers and classmates as a “major challenge.”
Young people who identify as LGBTQ have found the pandemic especially challenging, early research suggests.
In one study, 50% of LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 17 and 65% of transgender and nonbinary youth said that COVID-19 impacted their ability to express their sexual identity.
This same study found that 81% of LGBTQ youth described their living situation during the pandemic as more stressful than it was pre-pandemic.
Remote learning also required students to obtain — and fast — certain supplies, such as computers, printers and reliable internet service. Some students, including students of color and students from low-income households, had a harder time securing these new school staples, as noted in a 2021 U.S.
Department of Education report. For example: By summer 2020, nearly 1 in 3 teachers surveyed in majority Black schools reported that their students lacked the technology necessary to take part in virtual instruction. Only 1 in 5 teachers reported these same difficulties in majority white schools.
More Resources on Generation Z
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