The members of Generation Z — the group of people born after 1996 and before 2013 — are growing up alongside an increase in violence, sexual harassment and assault reports, and climate change concerns. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted both their daily lives and long-term plans and Gen Zs are increasingly uncertain of their finances, healthcare access, and even government. However, Gen Zs also are more likely than previous generations to seek help for their depression, stress, and anxiety which can help them manage their shared and personal stressors. This article looks at possible reasons for depression among Gen Z and discusses ways they can seek help.
Statistics by age
According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, between 2009 and 2017 depression rates increased more than:
- 47% among adolescents 12–13 years old
- 60% of teens 14–17 years old
- 46% among young adults 18–21 years old
The battle is not lost on Generation Z. A 2018 survey of teens 13–17 years old reports that 70% of respondents see anxiety and depression as a “major problem” among their peers. Another 2019 study reports suicide rates increased among:
- adolescents 15–19 years old, from 8 per 100,000 in 2000 to 11.8 per 100,000 in 2017.
- young adults 20–24 years old, from 12.5 per 100,000 in 2000 to 17 per 100,000 in 2017.
However, the authors note the study is limited due to occasional inaccuracies in death certificates (e.g., an intentional opioid overdose recorded as accidental).
Why might Gen Z be more depressed?
For example, Gen Z has seen an abundance of violence in a relatively short time period. In the decades following the 9/11 attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center in 2001, she brought several more large-scale terrorist attacks, including those in Boston, London, Paris, and Madrid. Unsurprisingly, public concern about terrorism has increased since the mid-1990s.
Regarding major issues in the national news, the same survey states that overall, more Gen Zs than adults are stressed about the:
● rise in overall suicide rates
● separation and deportation of immigrant and migrant families
● widespread reports of sexual harassment and assault
Climate change may cause more concern for Generation Z, commonly known as Zoomers, than previous generations. A 2019 survey shows Gen Z adults are more involved with climate change concerns than Gen X, Boomers, and in most cases, Millennials.
While social media use is not unique to Generation Z, it does present some challenges unique to Zoomers, especially those on the younger end of the timeline. Researchers established a relationship between problematic social media utilisation (PSMU) and:
● challenges with impulse control
● difficulties with goal-oriented behaviour
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Other potential issues and setbacks for Gen Z
Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on Generation Z’s mental health. According to the APA’s 2021 Stress in America Survey:
● 37% of Gen Z adults report being so stressed about the pandemic that they struggle to make basic decisions; 50% struggle to make major life decisions. (However, Millennials had an even more difficult time with decision-making.)
● 79% report experiencing behaviour changes due to stress.
● Nearly half (45%) of the Gen Z survey respondents report they do not know how to manage their pandemic-related stress.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as quarantining, has disrupted everyday issues that were already possible contributors to Generation Z depression and stress, including:
● healthcare access
● personal finances and debt
● the economy
Government institutions and political climates may impact Generation Z’s mental health, including their handling of race issues. Morning Consult surveyed 1,000 Gen Zs in 2020 on their trust in U.S. government institutions over a 3-month period. Each month, participants reported trusting their elders more than the police, the criminal justice system, and any level of government.
Gen Zers are more likely to seek mental health treatment for anxiety and depression compared to other generations. Gen Z may thus have fewer stigma-related mental health concerns than other generations.
That said, some Gen Zs still deal with stigma related to both mental health and their communities. For example, a 2021 survey of nearly 35,000 LGBTQ adolescents and young adults aged 13–24 found that:
● 48% of participants were unable to receive counselling from a mental health professional in the past year.
● 42% seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.
● Suicide attempt rates were lower among LGBTQ Gen Zs who were able to change their name or gender on legal documents, whose pronouns were respected, and who had access to places that reaffirmed their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Likewise, a 2017 study highlights the racial disparity in mental health service utilization. Reasons vary from low socioeconomic status to the inability to find a therapist who understands their culture.
Gen Zs looking for help in managing depression, anxiety, and stress might consider:
● Talking with a mental health professional. Telehealth and teletherapy grew rapidly during the COVID-19 epidemic, enabling patients to easily connect with qualified therapists and counsellors from any location.
● Prescription medication or alternative medicinal therapies. Doctors may recommend medication for depression and anxiety or alternative therapies for managing symptoms.
● Joining a support group. Gen Z can access in-person or online support groups for cost-effective, convenient conversations with peers facing similar concerns.
Research shows that youth-initiated mentoring (YIM) benefits adolescents, especially those from low-income households and ethnic minority groups. Teachers, social workers, and parents can facilitate connections between Gen Z adolescents and mentors.
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Generation Z is growing up and entering adulthood during a period of increased stress and worry. In a short amount of time, Zoomers have encountered many difficult situations, such as terrorism, slaughter, and a worldwide epidemic. Compared to past generations, people in Generation Z have increased rates of depression and other mental health problems.
Generations younger than previous generations are more likely to report depression issues, placing those seeking help in a better position. Seeking advice from mental health providers can direct individuals towards treatment options like talk therapy or medications.