Why Gen Z Is More Stressed

Why Gen Z Is More Stressed
by Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP

Generation Z refers to the generation born roughly between the years 1997 and 2012. They are the first generation to be completely raised with the internet and smartphones, and have grown up with a very different experience of the world than previous generations.

Specifically, they are interconnected globally with a diverse range of people and largely communicate through technology and social media. This generation is slowly starting to face real world challenges like paying for school, finding a job, and managing stress of daily life as an adult.

This raises the question: How is Gen Z handling their mental health compared to previous generations? They have grown up in tumultuous times that have included multiple stressors such as climate change, plastic pollution, and political unrest, but this generation has consistently proven itself to be one that openly speaks about mental health.

Why Is Gen Z Doing More Therapy?
In a report released by the American Psychiatric Association entitled “Stress in America: Generation Z” in October 2019, Gen Z were more likely to have received treatment or gone to therapy (37%) compared to Millennials (35%), Gen X’ers (26%), Baby Boomers (22%), and the Silent Generation (15%).

Furthermore, Gen Z were more likely to report their mental health as fair or poor (27%), compared to their older counterpart generations, namely Millennials (15%) and Gen X (13%).

Increased Psychological Concerns Among Gen Z
Gen Z has numerous reasons to feel more stressed than previous generations. Ultimately, stress can contribute to psychological concerns such as anxiety and depression. Below are some of the stressors that may be contributing to increased psychological issues among Gen Z.
• In one poll, it was reported that almost half of Gen Z respondents reported being connected online for 10 or more hours a day. More screen time means less time spent connecting with others in person, which could increase feelings of isolation and loneliness.
• In the APA report, 91% of Gen Z respondents reported experiencing physical or psychological symptoms due to stress. Causes of stress were identified as money/work (64%), debt (33%), housing (31%), and hunger (28%). Of these, only half reported that they were doing enough to manage their stress.
• Gen Z may also have increased stress due to world issues such as climate change, political climate, immigration, and fear about the future in general.
• Gen Z is the first generation to be exposed to potentially harmful content through social media at a young age (e.g., self-harm videos).
• Research from the University College London found that Gen Z was more likely to self-harm, have a poorer body image, skip sleep, be overweight, and have depression.
• Gen Z also faces pressure related to social media and technology, including harassment (sexual or otherwise), physical or cyber-bullying, and the need to conform.

Social Media to Destigmatize
Social media has helped to normalize mental health problems and reduce stigma among this generation through interconnectedness and shared understanding. Gen Z has a feeling of social support through their connections online that previous generations did not have.

Gen Z has grown up in an age where getting help is promoted and normalized (e.g., seeing ads for online therapy on social media). Baby Boomers didn’t see the Internet emerge in many cases until their 40’s and 50’s. Gen X wasn’t regularly on the Internet until their late 20’s. Some Millennials grew up with the Internet but others did not.

Generational Learning
For those who are parents of Gen Z children, the lesson to be learned is that your children are already likely more open and authentic than you when it comes to mental health.

For this reason, it’s important to listen to them when they talk to you about their mental health concerns rather than to brush these off or change the subject. Gen Z is used to talking openly about their mental health, and they need their parents to follow suit.

Open Communication
Gen Z is used to talking openly about their mental health, and other generations could learn from this. Open communication among families, between parents and kids, and among generations will mean fewer adults with emotional baggage.

What’s more, talking openly about mental health can help to inform the younger generation of what to expect in their own lives. Knowing that a family member has struggled with a particular issue could help them to communicate with doctors about their own risk. Keeping mental health in the shadows helps no one.

Active In Treatment
Finally, Gen Z has taught other generations that being active in your own treatment and recovery is critical for managing stress and moving towards getting what you want out of life. Rather than avoiding the problem, facing it and finding help is the best strategy for managing mental health.

source: verywellmind.com

Download the full issue of the September-October 2023 Healthy Options News Digest here.

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