Gen Z are experiencing increased stress levels due to uncertainties in their future.
The American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America Report for 2020 found that Gen Z adults aged 18-23 reported the highest stress levels in the month prior at an average of 6.1 out of 10.
This compares with 5.6 for millennials (aged 24-41), 5.2 for Gen X (aged 42-55) 4.0 for boomers (aged 56-74) and 3.3 for those aged 75 and older.
The average stress level for all adults in America is 5.0 which is similar to results of the 2019 and 2018 surveys which put stress at 4.9.
The stress felt by those in Gen Z has been steadily rising since 2018, when stress levels were 5.6, then 5.8 in 2019.
Shane Owens, PhD, a board certified psychologist and Assistant Director of Campus Mental Health at Farmingdale State College says it’s important people are empowered from a young age to cope with the uncertainties that will face them throughout life.
“Uncertainty is a crucial concept. Much of the time, we move through our lives with a false sense of security. COVID-19 and the concurrent problems we're facing force us to acknowledge and accept the limits of our control and certainty. Adults must teach kids—considering their developmental level—about how to handle uncertainty,” he told Theravive.
“When dealing with young kids, adults must communicate that smart, caring, powerful people will work hard to keep them safe. When dealing with tweens and teens, adults must model staying brave in the face of danger and the unknown. When dealing with older adolescents and young adults, grown-ups must collaborate with them and empower them to take the limited control they have over their own lives.”
Gen Z adults report a number of issues as significant sources of stress in their lives. 62 per cent of Gen Z adults note the rise in suicide rates is a cause of stress whilst 58 per cent say the reports of widespread sexual harassment and assault in the news is a source of stress. 50 per cent say they are also stressed about changes to abortion laws.
Women who are Gen Z adults are facing particularly high stress with some of these issues, with 64 per cent saying they are stressed about changes to abortion laws. In contrast, among Gen Z adult males 35 per cent felt the same way. Similarly, 67 per cent of Gen Z adult women are worried about widespread rates of sexual harassment and assault they see reported in the news, whilst 47 per cent of males in Gen Z feel the same way.
When it comes to the future of the United States, Gen Z adults are stressed out. 79 per cent say the future of their country is a significant source of stress for them. 67 per cent of this group say the election is stressing them, but only 64 per cent say they intend to vote in the upcoming election. Comparatively, 71 per cent of millennials, 79 per cent of Gen X, 86 per cent of boomers and 90 per cent of older adults say they intend to vote.
But it’s not just Gen Z adults who are stressed out. Gen Z teens aged 13-17 are also concerned with the uncertainty facing their future as well. 50 per cent say the COVID-19 pandemic had caused a severe disruption to the plans they had for their future. 51 per cent say the COVID-19 pandemic makes them feel as though planning for their own future is impossible.
The Gen Z teens who are still in school (81 per cent according to the survey) say school closures due to the pandemic has negatively impacted them. 52 per cent say they are less motivated to do their schoolwork, 49 per cent say they have had less involvement in clubs and activities, 47 per cent say they feel they haven’t learned as much as they have in past years and 45 per cent say they are experiencing difficulties concentrating on their school work.
43 per cent of teens say that their stress levels have increased over the past year.
Dr Owens says adults must encourage young people to find ways to turn obstacles into opportunities during this time.
“Missing out on birthdays, dances, proms, and commencements may be difficult in the short term but may have much less effect than we'd expect in the long run. In this regard, there are two essential tasks for adults. First—both for children and themselves—adults must acknowledge and accept feeling disappointment. Second, adults must find a way to turn each obstacle into an opportunity to find a new and meaningful way of commemorating and celebrating milestones. The current situation demands creativity and provides an opportunity for innovation,” he told Theravive.
Similar feelings are reported by college age students. 82 per cent of college age Gen Z adults said uncertainty surrounding what their 2020-2021 academic year would look like was stressing them. 67 per cent of college aged Gen Z adults say COVID-19 makes it feel impossible to plan for the future.
Elizabeth Pratt is a medical journalist and producer. Her work has appeared on Healthline, The Huffington Post, Fox News, The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The Sydney Morning Herald, News.com.au, Escape, The Cusp and Skyscanner. You can read more of her articles here. Or learn more about Elizabeth and contact her via her LinkedIn and Twitter profiles.