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Is Gen Z the Most Stressed Generation?

stressed teenagers take a test
By LifeStance Health on January 11, 2021

Since 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) has published an annual survey about Americans’ stress levels. Due to the pandemic and civil unrest, 2020 was a particularly stressful year across the board. So it surprised no one when this survey showed unusually high-stress levels.

What may come as a shock is who reported the most stress: Generation Z, or Gen Z for short.

That’s right. In 2020, the APA found that teenagers and young adults (up to the age of 23) were the country’s most stressed age demographic. And they are all in Gen Z.

If you’re in another generation, you may be wondering how young people could possibly be more stressed than people your age. First, bear in mind that this is not a one-to-one comparison and that you may personally be more stressed than someone in the younger generation.

Furthermore, consider why Gen Z may be more stressed on the whole than older adults. They face serious nationwide and global problems at a pivotal moment in their development, and that shouldn’t be ignored.

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How Stressed is Gen Z Anyway?

In the APA’s survey, they ask participants to think about the most stressed they have been in the previous month, then rate it on a scale from one to 10. On average, the number went down as age went up.

On a scale from one to 10, generations reported stress at these levels:

  • 75 years and older – 3.3
  • Baby Boomers – 4.0
  • Gen X – 5.2
  • Millennials – 5.6
  • Gen Z – 6.1

One explanation may be that as people age, they have experienced and survived more stressful events. That makes it easier to adopt an attitude of “this too shall pass.” Meanwhile, teens and young adults are coming into their own at a time of great uncertainty with no clear vision of the future.

What Does Gen Z Say Stresses Them Out?

The APA doesn’t stop at asking people how stressed they are. They also ask why. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic was top-of-mind for people of all ages. However, other major issues were stressing out Gen Z as well.

Gen Z participants reported being particularly stressed about:

  • High rates of suicide (62 percent)
  • Problems in all kinds of relationships due to the pandemic(63 percent)
  • Changes to abortion laws (50 percent)
  • Sexual assault and harassment in the news (58 percent)

Furthermore, 79 percent of Gen Z adults reported that the future of the country was a “significant source of stress” in their lives, and 67 percent said the presidential election caused stress.

Like everyone, Gen Z teens are worried about COVID-19. However, it impacts them differently than most people.

Gen Z teens reported significant changes to their lives because of COVID-19:

  • 51 percent say it’s impossible to plan for the future
  • 81 percent say they have been negatively affected by school closings
  • 52 percent report a decrease in motivation to do schoolwork
  • 49 percent report less involvement in extracurricular activities

For most people, the teen years are all about looking forward to the future, socializing at school, and participating in activities. When these things are taken away, it’s no wonder teens are struggling.

Supporting Gen Z Loved Ones

If you love a teen or young adult, you may worry about how best to support them when most people their age are struggling. And you’re right to think they need more help; 82 percent of Gen Z report wanting more support.

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First, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Whether that means going to therapy, getting enough sleep, or taking time to do fun things, it’s important to take time for self-care.

When you’re recharged enough to support someone else, consider supporting your Gen Z loved ones by:

  • Allow them to talk about what’s stressing them out and avoid belittling their feelings.
  • At the end of each day, ask them to name three good things. You can practice it with them.
  • Provide flexibility when possible.
  • Find ways for teens to maintain social contact with friends with social distancing rules in place.
  • Get creative about celebrating milestones in this environment.
  • Thank them for the real sacrifices they have made to keep others safe.
  • Provide access to online therapy or psychiatry when needed.

This is a difficult time for everyone. While there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s important to continue taking care of mental health.