Conducted in August 2018, the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 12th annual Stress in America Survey focused on Generation Z or Gen Zers, those born in the mid-to-late 1990s through the early 2010s. The poll surveyed 3,458 respondents ages 18+ living in the United States and completed interviews with teens ages 15 to 17. The results of APA’s survey highlighted generational differences in mental health issues and stress experienced, the most significant causes of stress, seeking mental health help, and stress management.
OVERVIEW OF MENTAL HEALTH AND STRESS RATES
Stress in America: Generation Z reported rates that Generation Z is experiencing mental health issues and stress. 27% of Generation Zers reported their mental health as fair or poor, compared to 15% of Millennials, 13% of Generation X, 7% of Boomers, and 5% of older adults. On the other hand, 45% of Gen Zers say their mental health is excellent or very good, compared to 56% of Millennials, 51% of Gen Xers, 70% of Boomers, and 74% of older adults. Survey results also highlighted mental health differences by gender: 35% of female Gen Zers report their mental health as fair or poor compared to 18% of males.
The survey found more Gen Zers reporting that they have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or depression. 18% of Gen Z reported an anxiety disorder diagnosis, and 23% reported they had been diagnosed with depression. 15% of Gen Xers, 14% of Millennials, 12% of Boomers, and 4% of older adults reported being diagnosed with depression.
APA’s survey notes that 91% of adult Gen Zers have experienced at least one physical or emotional symptom due to stress in the previous month. Comparatively, 74% of adults overall report the same symptoms of stress. Among Gen Z, common symptoms of stress include feeling depressed or sad (58% experienced in the prior month), lack of interest, motivation, or energy (55%), feeling nervous or anxious (54%), lying awake at night due to stress (68%), and eating too much or eating unhealthy food (58%).
MOST COMMON STRESSORS
APA’s report explored the most significant causes of stress and reported on both national and personal stressors.
Three in four surveyed Gen Zers reported mass shootings as a significant source of stress, and 72% reported the same about school shootings or the possibility of them occurring. Other national issues that Gen Zers reported as significant causes of stress were the current political climate (55%), our nation’s future (68%), the rise in suicide rates (62%), the separation and deportation of immigrant and migrant families (57%), widespread sexual harassment and assault reports in the news (53%), and climate change and global warming (58%).
Generation Zers surveyed also reported on their most significant personal stressors:
- 77% of Generation Z adults reported work as a significant stressor compared to 64% of adults overall
- 81% of Gen Z reported money as a significant stressor compared to 64% of adults overall
- 46% of Gen Z reported the economy as a significant stressor compared to 48% of adults overall
Other significant sources of stress for Gen Z include bullying/not getting along with others (35%), personal debt (33%), housing instability (31%), hunger/not getting enough to eat (28%), drug and alcohol use or addiction in the family (21%), dealing with gender issues relating to their sexual orientation/gender identity.
Notably, Gen Zers of color reported some sources of stress as more significant than white Gen Zers. 41% of Gen Zers of color reported personal debt as a significant source of stress compared to 30% of white Gen Zers. Furthermore, 40% of Gen Zers of color reported housing instability compared to 24% of white Gen Zers.
SEEKING HELP, COPING, AND STRESS MANAGEMENT
APA’s Stress in America: Generation Z report also highlighted generational differences in seeking and receiving mental health help and stress management.
37% of Gen Zers reported they received treatment or therapy from a psychologist or other mental health professional, compared to 26% of Gen Xers, 22% of Boomers, and 15% of older adults. Regarding stress management, 50% of Gen Zers feel they do enough to manage their stress compared to 64% of adults overall. Alternatively, 25% of Gen Zers reported they do not feel they do enough to manage their stress compared to 20% of adults overall.
Highlighting the lack of effective and accessible mental health supports, 56% of Americans surveyed reported they feel they needed more emotional support in the past year and 73% of the surveyed Generation Zer said the same.
Since the publication of this report, the COVID-19 pandemic, remote schooling, and limited social interaction have aggravated mental health concerns for Gen Z. Coupled with medical and educator staff shortages, Gen Z is still facing setbacks in access to quality mental healthcare. Schools, communities, and parents must collaborate to implement effective and innovative solutions to support our students.
Read the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America: Generation Z report here.
Written by Zoe Klein, Research and Policy Specialist at Learning First Alliance.