Saturday, June 3

Millennials and Generation Z: Why are they the depressed generation?


Millennials and Generation Z have been called the depressed generation. Why? Have you had more problems to solve? Or do they simply acknowledge their discomfort without fear of being judged?

Begoña Albalat Peraita

BEGOÑA ALBALAT PERAITA General Health Psychology, International University of Valencia

A few months ago a patient told me: “I belong to the depressed generation, how can I not be?” It was her first session and she came to therapy because she found herself without desire for anything, without motivation and with the feeling that life had no meaning.

He was right, he belongs to the so-called ‘depressed generation’, a generation that actually encompasses the set of two of them: the millennial (also called generation Y) and generation Z.

The first one refers to people who were born between 1981 and 1995 and the second to those who came into the world between 1995 and 2010 (both dates are approximate since there is no clear social consensus for this classification).

The truth is that there is an increasing use of antidepressants, more attendance at psychological therapy and more self-reported expression of anxiety and sadness in these generations. Let’s go by parts to discover what factors influence this.

What factors have depressed this generation?

First of all, let’s start by defining major depressive disorder. This manifests itself as a set of symptoms, of which we can highlight a depressed mood during most of the day, decreased interest in activities that previously caused pleasure, weight loss or gain, insomnia or hypersomnia, agitation or delay psychomotor, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, decreased ability to think or concentrate, and recurrent thoughts of death.

There are several reasons why Millennials and Gen Z are collectively referred to as the Depressed Generation. Let’s analyze the different factors that could be influencing:

Pandemic, coronaphobia and loneliness

We cannot ignore the influence that the covid-19 pandemic has had on the general population. We have talked about unpleasant states such as coronaphobia (excessive anxiety about contracting the coronavirus), anxiety, pandemic fatigue (a reaction of exhaustion in the face of sustained and unresolved adversity), etc. Given such a scenario, the question is: have these situations particularly affected these two generations?

Loneliness is something that is directly related to sadness. While it is true that this is applicable at any age, the need to interact with peers is greater in youth. This is why the specific and preventive measures for the spread of coronarivus have particularly affected this population.

social anxiety

On the other hand, the loneliness of that moment now collides head-on with the return to social life, often causing anxiety in adolescents and young people. This is what has been called a social hangover.

My personal experience in consultation has revealed to me that many people of this age accuse from that moment the feeling of not feeling able to “connect” with their peers. They feel that they do not enjoy social situations with many people and experience anxiety when surrounded by someone they have just met.

Social media

Social networks have become a refuge for many young people who feel bad. It should be noted that proper use of them is positive. In fact, partly thanks to them, the social disconnection during confinement was not total.

But there are two factors that can negatively affect young people:

-Excessive use or as avoidance of moments of anxiety. This can cause them to take refuge in networks with the aim of substituting live social situations.

-A biased use. Such a situation could only expose them to content with which they can negatively compare themselves. Even to posts that show expression of emotional pain by unknown people (for example, images of self-harm).

job frustration

The millennial generation was educated in a “meritocracy” very focused on labor and socioeconomic success conditioned on effort. Phrases like “If you work hard, you will get what you set out to do”, surely most of them have heard them.

It is a generation that has made an effort to achieve their life goals but with a result of frustration in many cases. University studies were equated with job success and, however, when that period ended, there was an economic crisis that did not allow them to develop at work. Now they may be afraid of the same thing happening in the wake of the pandemic.

global concerns

Among the issues that concern the millennial and Z generations, we find feminism, eco-anxiety, LGTBIQ+ rights, migration…

They are generations that care about the global and not only about the particular. They think beyond and feel anxiety for more things than the particular and individual.

These global concerns and the possibility of communicating through networks give them a very positive sense of belonging. It makes them feel part of a whole and feel understood by their peers.

However, they not only worry but also seek solutions, often feeling excessive responsibility for situations that are global, more difficult to solve and, therefore, cause anxiety.

Greater recognition of one’s own symptoms

One of the reasons why depression and anxiety are talked about more in these generations is that people who suffer from it speak more naturally about it and more easily recognize the symptoms. In fact, mental health is already a much talked about issue on social networks, the platforms on which young people move the most.

This is positive because when a person recognizes that they are ill, they can seek help. In fact, it is these generations that have broken the taboo surrounding mental health care. Now they are the ones who most (and most openly) talk about going to therapy. They are also the ones who recommend it the most and who most recognize their own problems.

This is the depressed generation because it is the generation that acknowledges their discomfort without shame or fear.

This article has been published in
The conversation‘.


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