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Part of Western Governors University

June 6, 2019

Student Success

Stress, mental health, and Generation Z.

Stressed student

Who is Generation Z?

Born with smartphones, the internet, and technology right at their fingertips, Generation Z is the next up-and-coming generation to watch out for.

Experts and demographers say that Generation Z is the group born from 1997 to roughly 2012, with the end year up for debate as those individuals age. Known by other names like Generation K (after Katniss Everdeen from the popular Hunger Games series) or Post-Millennials, the first members of this group are coming to an age where they are entering the workforce, and making an impact on society.

It’s estimated that Gen Z accounts for 61 million people in the United States. This group has grown up in very different times than previous generations, and thus have very different lives and expectations for the future.

 

How millennials are different from Generation Z.

Millennials (the generational group just older than Gen Z) have characteristics that are different from Generation Z in very specific ways. Driven to turn their hobbies into jobs or start their own business, Gen Z are more concerned about paying for school than millennials, and are set on not going into debt.

They are much more focused on tech, spending 3+ hours on technology outside of school related activities. And they have a lot more tech at their fingertips compared to millennials; Generation Z individuals are growing up with 5 screens or more in their lives, are spending more time on a wider variety of apps, and communicate almost strictly using technology and social media.

Gen Z individuals differ from millennials mainly because of the uncertain times in which they grew up. Growing up during the Great Recession and post 9/11 has made them mature for their age, and very focused and driven toward specific goals. They tend to be less focused on social justice compared to millennials, and less concerned about the future of society, and more about their own futures. However, as this generation ages, these things are subject to change.

 

Generation Z and stress.

Generation Z is considered the loneliest generation, according to research. Between sleep, social media, and the world around them, it’s easy to see why Gen Z faces chronic stress.

The factors are all around them; increased gun violence across the country, including in schools where Gen Z students attend, sexual harassment reports coming from all around them, and many of them that have dealt with harassment or abuse themselves, political discussions surrounding immigration and taxes that could have a direct impact on their futures, the list goes on and on. And these are just a few of the social situations that Gen Z has to deal with and observe all the time that are causing anxiety and depression.

Gen Z feels more stress about these issues than other generations, according to research. They are also more likely to have direct mental and physical health problems as a result of these stressful situations.

 

Stressed teen

Effects of stress on mental health.

These kind of stressors have a direct impact on the mental health of Generation Z. Due to all the chronic stress that Gen Z feels, they are seeing increased levels of anxiety and depression. Experts believe that pressures associated with social media have made Gen Z additionally stressed, and that these pressures directly tie in to their mental health issues.

 

Technology and mental health.

Technology is also a direct factor on the mental health of Generation Z. Technology and social media provides a feeling of connectedness, even when you’re not really connected. This generation sees issues where parents don’t feel like they spend time with their kids because they are glued to their phones, and groups of friends don’t actually do anything together but look at social media.

 

This feeling of independence that technology offers actually can lead to loneliness and depression for Gen Z. Because they are the first generation to have this much technology and social connection at their fingertips, it’s uncertain what it will continue to do to their mental health.  

Generation Z mental health statistics.

Only 45% of Generation Z individuals say their mental health is good, or very good. That’s 11% less than the next closest generation. A whopping 91% of Gen Z said they experienced a physical or emotional symptom due to stress and mental illness in the past year.

The reality is that Generation Z struggles with mental illness. And it’s not hard to see why, as they are stressed and pressured with the world around them all the time.

Luckily, Gen Z is also the most likely generation to get help when they have mental health issues. From going to therapy to getting medicated, they are the most likely generation to seek that help. With mental illness help being more widely talked about, supported, and encouraged, it’s not surprising that this generation finds they are willing to seek therapy or other professionals when they need help. It’s encouraging to note that while they feel immense stress and pressure, many of them are working to find resources to help them cope and improve.

Healthcare is going to have to evolve and change with the needs of its patients. As Gen Z ages and grows, the industry will have to adapt to their health needs and concerns.

 

Stress written in red pencil

How to improve mental health.

Seeking help from a professional is one of the most important things to improve mental health. A professional can help identify what the mental health issues are, if they need to be medicated, and identify strategies and resources that will best help.

Educated nurses can work with Generation Z to have a positive impact on their mental health. Even if they cannot provide the same care as mental health professional, nurses can still help patients improve their mental illness by focusing on physical needs, such as diet and exercise. Similarly, nurses trained to work in schools can help younger members of Generation Z who are still in school learn how to manage stress more effectively.

Unfortunately, a shortage of qualified nurses and other health professionals act as a barrier to better health care. As the industry works combat that shortage, it can lead to more resources to improve mental health and more providers who are qualified to give better care.

Other strategies that can help reduce stress and loneliness, and improve mental health are getting enough sleep, spending time with friends and family away from technology, physical activity that releases positive chemicals into your body, and working to find ways to connect in real ways with people around you.

 

While Generation Z is facing stress and mental illness, there are positive indications that they are working to cope and improve these issues. This will help make their future, and the world’s future, much brighter.

 

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