New Workforce: Generation Z Reporting High Stress Levels
By Mary McWilliams
Born in the late 90s to early 2010s, the post-Millennial generation — Generation Z — is now entering the workforce.
There are many factors for businesses to consider when hiring Generation Z candidates. These fresh faces are expected to bring a vast digital skill set to the workforce. They are entrepreneurial and eager to make an impact. They are also highly educated: 1 in 2 are expected to hold a university-level degree.
On the other hand, they are a generation noting extremely high stress levels, according to an October 2018 report by the American Psychological Association (APA). (Read this report and other stress and sleep management studies.)
Technology: Generation Z as Digital Natives
One of the major markers of this demographic? Generation Z is the first group of digital natives. They grew up with a smartphone in hand. Most have not experienced life without high-speed Internet access, social media or mobile devices. It’s a shift in culture. It’s a technology literacy of which we have never seen before.
Employers are sure to benefit and gain a digital edge from employing this audience. Throughout the most formative years, Gen-Zers have honed digital marketing skills and worked to develop a personal brand. They understand how to build authentic and effective online communities. They also are masters of digital multi-tasking: snapping photos, editing via apps and answering texts all at the same time. On average, Generation Z may be using five screens at any given time.
For these reasons, this group is extremely visual. This is reflected in their online behavior, with channels of choice spanning the following:
Stress: Generation Z has Concerns About Safety
It’s not just about selfies and social media for Generation Z. Safety is also a common theme, and it stems from many places.
Post- 9/11 Upbringing: For one, the eldest of Gen Z were toddlers during 9/11. This event had — and continues to have — a significant impact on our country’s climate and worldview. Generation Z and Millennials alike have grown up with the very real threat of terrorism hanging over their heads and communities. While these generations thrive on exploration and experiences, they certainly have heightened awareness in their everyday lives.
Uneasy Economy: Generation Z grew up during the Great Recession. This was a time of great uncertainty, job loss and financial insecurity. Without a doubt, Gen Z felt the impacts of the stress on their parents and community. Traditional constructs were no longer considered “safe.” That said, the country saw a great deal of resilience and innovation during this challenging time, and it left a lasting impact on Gen Z, influencing decisions around higher education and future career paths.
Gun Violence: No other generation has experienced gun violence in the same way as Generation Z. Once considered a safe space for children, primary schools experienced new security risks in the 2000s. School shootings became an increasingly familiar phenomenon, impacting communities large and small. And walking the halls of these schools? Generation Z. In fact, 75 percent noted mass shootings as a major source of stress, according to the APA survey. Fifty-six percent say they sometimes consider the possibility of shooting at their own school and it causes them stress.
The State of Generation Z’s Mental Health
In addition to the safety-based stressors that have weighed heavily on the minds of Generation Z, this group has inherited some unhealthy habits and mental health issues. APA called Gen Z the “most likely of all generations to report poor mental health.” Twenty-seven percent reported their mental health as fair or poor, which was more than 10 percent higher than older generations.
Stress impacts Gen Z adults in the following ways:
- 58% feel depressed or sad
- 55% experience a lack of interest, motivation or energy
- 54% feel nervous or anxious
- 68% recently experienced insomnia
- 58% ate too much or turned to unhealthy foods within the last month
- 91% recently experienced at least one physical or emotional symptom (compared to 74% of all adults)
Compared to less than 15% of other generations, Gen Z mental health diagnoses include:
- 23% depression
- 18% anxiety disorder
Mental Health: Generation Z Seeks Support
On a positive note, Generation Z is also the most open to mental health support and want to do more to increase their overall well-being.
- Only 1/2 feel they do enough to manage their stress
- 25% say they do not feel they do enough to manage their stress
- 73% say they could have used more emotional support in the past year
There are many reasons why this generation is experiencing — or more outspoken about — poor mental health.
Loneliness: While extremely connected in the online world, Generation Z lacks in-person relationships and communities. This has proved detrimental to their overall well-being. This group has reported remarkably high levels of loneliness, nearly 10 points higher than those currently in their golden years. Loneliness is major indicator of poor mental health, and it is a difficult and cross-generational issue. However, CalmCircle studies show mindfulness is a proven way to lessen feelings of loneliness and increase self-compassion.
Blue Light: Generation Z did not become digital natives by accident: 41 percent of Gen Z spends upwards of 3 hours with screens per day for extracurricular reasons. This has jumped nearly 20 percent in the last ten years. While this provides ample opportunity for developing important technology skills, there can be drawbacks to one’s mental health.
Screens give off an unnatural blue light that can decrease the secretion of melatonin and disrupt or shorten sleep cycles, according to recent Harvard research. This can put users at risk of depression and a host of physical health problems. This also means meditation, mindfulness and dedicated device-free time is increasing important for Generation Z — especially if screen time usage continues to increase over time.
There’s no question that employers are sure to enjoy big benefits from this savvy group. Those businesses that provide regular opportunities for mental rest will drive the very best from new Generation Z employees — not to mention, the rest of its workforce.