Generation Z (Gen Z), people born between 1997-2012, has been labeled as the most depressed generation nowadays. Many analyses claim that they start dealing with mental health conditions amidst the peak of the COVID-19 global crisis.
However, regardless of the pandemic, another report shows that Gen Zers have a lower positive outlook in life than the older generation. This series of consumer surveys and interviews added that these young adults have lower emotional and social well-being levels.
Why Is Gen Z So Mentally Unstable?
Gen Z grew up in a hyper-connected world, warped by social media and victimhood culture. While this brings convenience to them, it evokes intense feelings of loneliness and isolation in many GenZers.
Specifically, it fuels a steady drumbeat of fear of missing out and shame in not reaching a social media-worthy standard. For example, according to a Wall Street Journal report, Instagram has been negatively influencing the mental health of Gen Zers, particularly women. It reportedly worsens body image issues for one in three female Gen Zers.
Many Gen Zers also have a fear of the future. While the uncertainty of the future is one factor, they mainly think their generation isn’t up for success, making them feel disadvantaged compared to other generations.
Harmony Healthcare IT reported that the biggest future concerns of Gen Zers are finances and work. Most of them feel financially unstable, unready to join the workforce, and greatly worried about the economy.
Besides income and employment, several Gen Zers face unmet social needs more than other generations. These include food, housing, education, transportation, social support, and safety. This claim is related to one recent nationwide survey indicating that people with poor mental health would likely have more unmet basic needs and unmet basic needs.
McKinsey’s report added that GenZers’ perceived unmet social needs are likely associated with self-reported rates of behavioral-health conditions, such as mental or substance use disorders.
Even worse, McKinsey reportedly claimed that GenZers’ perceived unmet social needs and mental health issues are linked to suicide. They found that their respondents are likely to think about, plan, and attempt suicide within a year (during the research, specifically between late 2019 to late 2020).
Gen Zer’s Characteristics in The Healthcare Ecosystem
In many studies, Gen Z’s specific mental and behavioral needs suggest seeking help for their physical health, behavioral health, and social needs. The good news is that reports show they’re likely to report behavioral-health diagnoses.
In a study involving 1,000 Gen Z participants, 20% have a regular therapist, 39% attend psychotherapies once a week, and 57% take regular medication. Another research also claimed that 80% fight against frequent bouts of depression.
Unfortunately, other Gen Zers lack the need to seek a holistic approach to health. One factor is their finances. There are inexpensive medicines to treat mental issues. One example is Alprazolam, used to treat anxiety disorders and sold under the brand name Xanax.
Xanax Pricing can be as low as $3 per tablet, depending on the treatment plan, insurance coverage, and preferred pharmacy. Despite its low cost, others still hesitate to seek treatment, especially those with low or no income.
Apart from perceived affordability, another factor for Gen Z’s reduced help-seeking is the stigma associated with behavioral-health challenges within their families and communities. This is particularly relevant for Gen Zers in communities of color.
Many Gen Zers tend to be disengaged from their healthcare as well. McKinsey notes that they’re less health-conscious. Specifically, they tend to feel less in control of their lifespan and less proactive in maintaining good health.
Despite their needs, they reportedly have the least comfort discussing behavioral-health issues with their doctors compared with other generations. They also have the least motivation to improve their health.
Gen Z Seek Help From Social Media and Digital Tools
Instead of medical care, many Gen Zers manage and seek support for behavioral-health issues on social media and digital tools. They reportedly go to TikTok or Reddit for advice, follow professional therapists on social media, or download relevant apps.
Social media and digital tools can be powerful tools for destigmatizing mental health issues and peer support. However, it’s yet unclear how to balance its perceived advantages with risks such as:
- High exposure to misinformation;
- Advice from non-professionals; and
- Increasing symptoms of anxiety and depression due to excessive screen time
This reliance on social media and digital tools isn’t solely because of their high exposure to the Internet and electronic gadgets. It can also be partly because of mental-health provider shortages.
Instead of regular outpatient mental health services, many Gen Zers rely on behavioral-health crisis services or emergency care. This lack of access is very concerning for a generation less likely to seek therapy and treatment for suicidal ideation or attempted suicide.
Although there’s a high integration of telehealth in psychiatry nowadays, Gen Z has the lowest satisfaction with it. They claim that telehealth therapies lack personalization and racial and ethnic diversity and are less official and professional.
There are so many unprecedented combinations of stressors impacting not only Gen Z but everyone’s mental health nowadays. If you’re mentally and emotionally struggling, you’re not alone. Immediately reach out for help and connect with a qualified professional.