ASA recently did some research into the emotional state of Gen Z from mid 2020 to early 2021. Overall, Gen Z’s average level of stress was a 6.29 on a scale of 1 to 10. Their stress is higher than their levels of mental healthiness, confidence, anxiety, and optimism…it’s safe to say that, compared to other emotions, stress is a dominant factor in their lives. Much has been written about the stress carried by today’s young people. An American Psychological Association report, in fact, cites that “high profile issues, such as sexual harassment and gun violence, are significant stressors for Gen Z. America’s youngest adults are most likely of all generations to report poor mental health…”
But we know from our ongoing work that today’s young people are also stressed about another area: their future. Specifically, they are concerned about the future as it relates to their education and prospective careers. “Education status/plan” was among the highest sources of stress reportedly felt by Gen Z in our survey, second only to the pandemic and family life. We learned that Gen Z experiences feelings like anxiety, nervousness, and overwhelm around the decision making process, reporting an average of 2.75 negative emotions before making a decision, with more young women and girls feeling negative emotions before making a decision than young men and boys.
Supporting Gen Z’s decision-making journey
The last year has been incredibly stressful for people of all ages. Planning for the future during “normal” times poses challenges and can bring about negative thinking, but doing so during a global catastrophe has meant an extra burden on today’s teens and young adults who are at critical junctures in their lives. For many, plans for college, jobs, or internships that were all but guaranteed may have been disrupted. Income sources may have been lost. Family members may have gotten sick or worse.
For parents, educators, administrators, coaches, counselors and community leaders — appreciating the emotional state of today’s young people is critical, and can help us work to ease some of the pressures of the last year. As many of Gen Z’s young people approach one of their biggest life decisions to date, ASA is committed to continuing to study how the adults in their lives can best support them in their decision-making journey.
How does this snapshot about Gen Z’s stress compare or contrast with your own experience/understanding of Gen Z today? I’d love to hear your thoughts.