The Anxious Generation
As the first generation raised on the internet and social media, with access to technology, connectivity and content like no other generation before them; as a generation that grew up in the wake of one of the worst recessions in modern history; and as a generation still grappling with increased economic uncertainty and worsening financial prospects, Millennials are experiencing anxiety like no other generation. This leaves parents, professionals and researchers asking the question, why are rates of anxiety in this section of the population so high?
A study in 2018 showed that diagnoses of mental illness had risen dramatically by 33% for the general population since 2013, and as high as 47% for millennials. Researchers also found that 65% of school leavers reported overwhelming anxiety over their final years of schooling, up by 20% from the previous 5 years. Statistics such as these, exposing the levels of anxiety amongst Millennials and Generation Z were widespread, and often discussed before the World experienced the global pandemic. But now, children, teenagers and young adults are afflicted with more mental health issues than any generation before. The reason behind the prevalence of anxiety among millennials is a matter of endless discussion. Here are 3 reasons why this is the case.
1. A difficult path
One popular opinion, especially from the older generation, is that Millennials are largely spoiled and entitled. This stance is based on the idea that by being over-reliant on parents while growing up, it has left them unprepared for the challenges of the real world. However, when we consider factors such as environmental shifts, economic instability, and well-documented international turbulence combine to make Millennials go through extreme levels of anxiety. All as a result of one key principle - uncertainty. Where pathways in life were much more clear, and opportunities to succeed in a career were more structured, young people now face the reality that those don’t exist in the same way. That is to say, a quality education isn’t a guarantee of professional success anymore.
2. Access to technology
Technology also plays a big part in the lives of young people around the world, and experts have suggested that it is a contributing factor in the rise of Millennial anxiety. Because many young people spend a great deal of their time on the internet, they are exposed to a lot of information and opinions that shape their thinking. It also influences how they perceive themselves and the World around them. The ease of comparisons between their life and the lives of others (be it real, filtered or cherry picked) is a recipe for poor mental health. Such an endless flow of information, which impacts their sense of reality, can cause significant levels of anxiety.
Some experts have pointed out that anxiety is at an all-time high amongst young people because of the increased level of awareness and expressiveness in all that goes on around them. While older generations might have had ways of dealing with anxiety by suppressing their emotions and not showing their vulnerability, a lot of Millennials have developed the ability to express their feelings about events around them with a certain level of clarity. In terms of mental health, this is positive progress and the right direction. Breaking down the stigma of anxiety is so important in the path to supporting those in need. But some consider it a signal that the work to shatter preconceived ideas is increasing awareness of such conditions, and therefore increasing their prevalence.
Here at oVRcome, we are all about supporting individuals with anxiety and phobias which are affecting their quality of life. Working with clinical psychologists, the work we do is all informed by specialists in this field, and is then used to create programmes which can have an incredible impact on those who suffer from anxiety. Supporting young people with their anxiety is the next stage of our work, and we will soon be releasing an eBook to do just that. “7 Tips to Calm Your Child’s Anxiety” will offer some actionable advice for those who are wishing to make a positive impact. Stay tuned to our website for it’s availability.
In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about anxiety in children and young people, we have a number of articles available on our blog. Why not have a read of this previous article, where clinical psychologist Catherine Gallagher explores some of the indicators to answer the question “How do I know if my child has an issue with anxiety?”