From inflation and the climate crisis to unemployment and the pandemic, members of Gen Z – born between 1997 and 2011 – face significant and even unprecedented challenges as they enter their adult lives.
It’s a complex time, one that’s not unrelated to the deteriorating mental health of this young generation, although a new report shows fresh optimism among young people when looking to the future.
In a 2021 report, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that one in seven young people aged 10 to 19 worldwide experiences mental health conditions, leaving them “particularly vulnerable to social exclusion, discrimination, stigma (affecting readiness to seek help), educational difficulties, risk-taking behaviours, physical ill-health and human rights violations”.
All these negative effects prevent them from being adequately able to prepare for the future and face the present.
The latest report from Gallup looked into the well-being of this generation, the problems it faces, and its future prospects, by interviewing over 3,000 young people aged 12 to 26 in the United States.
The findings are mixed: while only a relatively small proportion claim to be doing well or to enjoy “excellent” mental health, it doesn’t mean this generation, on the whole, isn’t optimistic about the future, which they hope will be far more prosperous.
Among the key findings: just 47% of this generation were found to be thriving in their lives, one of the lowest rates among all generations (59% for millennials, 57% for Gen Xers). Only the silent generation – those born between 1925 and 1945 – seems to feel less prosperous, with 45% reported to be thriving.
Interestingly, the authors compared the state of mind of Gen Z with that of millennials at the same age to determine whether this lack of fulfillment is linked – or not – to a specific life stage.
They found that 59% and 60% of millennials aged 18 to 26 were reported to be thriving in life in 2009 and 2014, respectively, when they were the same age as today’s Gen Z-ers; while last year, only 41% of 18- to 26-year-old Gen Z adults were thriving.
The same is true when looking at the mental and emotional well-being of this young generation, which is well below that of their older counterparts. In 2023, only 15% of Gen Zers aged 18 to 26 consider their mental health to be “excellent”, compared with 52% of current millennials of the same age a decade ago.
A brighter future?
Aware of the problems they face, whatever their nature, members of Gen Z are nonetheless optimistic, on the whole, about their future. Two-thirds of them believe, for example, that they will be able to land their dream job, while over three-quarters (76%) believe they have a bright future ahead of them.
The proportion even rises to 82% when asked if they think they’ll be able to achieve their goals. So much for a disillusioned generation!
Young people’s prospects don’t seem in any way undermined by the challenges they are currently grappling with, for the most part. But on the downside, just over four in 10 Gen Z-ers (44%) say they feel prepared for the future (48% among respondents aged 22 to 26).
When they look to the future, members of Gen Z hope above all to earn enough money to be able to live comfortably. This is one of their main concerns for the future (with 69% holding this hope), ahead of:
- getting married or finding a life partner (35%);
- combining personal passions with work (33%);
- buying a house (32%); and
- having a positive influence on the world, or at least on their community (31%).
Overall, the results show that young people are concerned about their financial situation in the future. Indeed, 64% of respondents see financial resources as an obstacle to achieving their professional goals and, more specifically, to one of the paths they hope to take in the future.