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, their access to healthcare, and even their 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.
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% among teens 14–17 years old
- 46% among young adults 18–21 years old
Gen Zs are aware of the struggle, too. 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.
- 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).
While Gen Z children, teens, and adults encounter many of the same stressors as generations before them, it is possible they experience a more intense version, especially given the myriad of news and social media outlets.
For example, Gen Z has seen an abundance of violence in a relatively short time period.
The decades following the 9/11 attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center in 2001 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.
Additionally, active shooter incidents have increased since 2000. In America, the numbers climbed from 1 incident in 2000 to 30 incidents in 2017 and the majority of those shootings took place in vulnerable public places such as schools, commercial businesses, and open spaces. In 2018, the American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual Stress in America Survey reports 75% of Gen Z youth surveyed stated mass shootings are a significant source of stress.
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
Gen Z, also called zoomers, might have more anxiety over climate change than past 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. For example, during a 2021 study of Gen Z adolescents aged 10–17, researchers found a relationship between problematic social media use (PSMU) and:
- challenges with impulse control
- difficulties with goal-oriented behavior
Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on Generation Z’s mental health. According to the 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 behavior 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
It is possible government institutions and political climates, including their perceived handling of race issues, play significant roles in Generation Z’s mental health as well.
For example, over a 3-month period in 2020 Morning Consult surveyed a small sample of Gen Zs (1,000 people) regarding their trust in major U.S. government institutions. Each month, participants reported trusting their elders more than the police, the criminal justice system, and any level of government.
According to the APA, Gen Zs are significantly more likely than previous generations to seek help for mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. It could therefore be assumed that perhaps Gen Z deal with less stigma related issues around mental health compared to previous generations.
That said, some Gen Zs do 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 counseling 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.
Gen Zs looking for help in managing depression, anxiety, and stress might consider:
- Talking with a mental health professional. Quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic normalized telehealth and teletherapy, making it an easy way for people to access experienced counselors and therapists regardless of location.
- Prescription medication or alternative medicinal therapies. Depending on the situation, a doctor might suggest short- or long-term psychiatric medication to help someone manage their depression and anxiety; likewise, they might go over the benefits of alternative and complementary therapies.
- Joining a support group. Gen Zs can find in-person or online support groups, making them a cost-effective and convenient way to talk out their issues with peers dealing with the same concerns.
Gen Zs are growing up and coming of age in a time of heightened stress and anxiety. From violence and terrorism to a global pandemic, Zoomers have dealt with significant issues in a relatively short period of time.
Members of Generation Z report higher rates of depression and a number of other mental health conditions than do generations before them.
At the same time, they are more likely than previous generations to report these problems, positioning those who seek help in a place to receive it.
If people are concerned, they should seek advice from mental health providers, who will be able to direct toward treatment options for depression, that may include talk therapy or medications.