Does Gen-Z Have More Mental Health Issues Than Older Generations?

Is it true that Gen Z has an increased susceptibility to being diagnosed with mental health issues or disorders?

Gen Zs access to mental health services are unprecedented, but the issue of taking the first step and reaching out for support can be challenging. (Photo Credit: Finn / Unsplash)

Gen Z’s access to mental health services are unprecedented, but the issue of taking the first step and reaching out for support can be challenging. (Photo Credit: Finn / Unsplash)

Generation Z has grown up in a unique era characterized by rapid technological advancements that have made communicating as easy as tapping a button or posting a story. This convenience has, however, completely consumed us. As a result, their mental health experiences differ significantly from those of older generations, leading Gen Z to face a distinctive set of challenges that impact their well-being.

Firstly, Gen Z is the first generation to have grown up incredibly immersed in a highly digital age. While technology has brought numerous benefits, it has also created new stressors. Constant exposure to the internet has led to increased pressure to maintain a curated online persona, fostering feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. Fears of missing out and the need for validation have become prevalent among Gen Z, contributing to higher rates of depression and anxiety.

Additionally, this generation has faced unprecedented levels of academic pressure. Students experience intense competition, near impossible academic expectations, and a highly competitive job market. The pressure to succeed academically and secure a stable future has taken a toll on their mental health, leading to burnout and a higher incidence of mental health disorders.

Moreover, Gen Z has grown up during a time of significant social and political unrest. They are acutely aware of global issues such as climate change, social injustice, and political polarization. Constant exposure to these challenges through media networks has contributed to a heightened sense of anxiety, existential concerns, and a feeling of helplessness surrounding these topics.

Though so common, mental illnesses have been stigmatized for centuries. Individuals that exhibit such behavior have been discriminated against and treated differently. Those placed in mental health institutions have been tortured, experimented on without consent, and even criminalized. 

This horrific past has made many resistant to open up about any issues they fear they may be experiencing. This fear then leads to stigma, which causes individuals to shy away from receiving the proper care they need. This is a cyclical issue, as individuals feel ashamed of opening up about any special needs they may require; however, on some occasions, once individuals become vulnerable enough to seek help, they are then shamed, placing them in this destructive cycle and environment. 

A partial reason for the negative connotation of mental illnesses is that some individuals were unjustly diagnosed in the name of oppression. An example of this is hysteria, a mental illness that solely women were diagnosed with, which constituted what doctors claimed as “ungovernable emotional excess.” Although the diagnosis has since been revoked, it is still important to note how it was weaponized to oppress and subject women to the powers of the patriarchy. 

Modern sentiments are obviously much more lax as there is less bigotry and more tolerance, and, as a result, individuals seem more open about these issues. 

According to a study done by Ogilvy study, 70% of Gen-Zers say their mental health needs more  attention and improvement. The implications of this study display that rather than Gen Z having more mental health issues, it rather could be a disproportionality in the reporting. In other words, rather than Gen Z having a higher amount of mental health issues than past generations, they are more likely to report such and thus only appears to be higher when in reality the proportion could be very similar.

On this point, it begs the question: does Gen Z have more mental health issues than previous generations, or is it due to a flood of related content in the media? Rightfully so, mental health has been heavily destigmatized in the past two decades, which has been partnered with more people speaking up and speaking out about their own struggles regarding mental health. 

By normalizing this struggle, others may feel more inclined to speak up and seek help. However, sometimes this outreach has been parodied. A notable portion of Gen Z has been very vocal about their struggles, arguably too open for some. 

The issue is not in the fact that these individuals are sharing about their experiences, but, rather, that some of this information can be misleading or outright false. There seems to be a trend of diagnosing oneself with a mental illness or disorder in varying arrays. For example, it can range from a simple sentence of “I have anxiety…” even if one is not clinically diagnosed to content creators with feeds flooded with information and advice about their “experiences” even if they do not have whatever disorder they claim to have.

A concern has also been with the fact that some people, especially different influencers and content creators have opened up about mental health issues that have not actually been clinically diagnosed. This raises questions as to the validity of their claims of issues with mental health and adds a burden to those with diagnosed issues that are already having troubles being taken seriously and being heard. 

An infamous example of this that went viral several months ago was The Wonderland System. The situation involved an internet personality who had a quick rise to fame, as they claimed to have dozens of personalities as a result of dissociative identity disorder, which was soon debunked for the celebrity. 

As for all movements, it is important to have people speak up and normalize talks of the matter, but, when people begin to lie, it can cause major setbacks. 

From what I have observed first-hand, I think that many students have been fighting a silent battle with themselves. Stress is invisible, almost impossible to catch without warning.

Having experienced all the turmoil of high school, Bronx Science alumna Gina Celentano ’22 offers the advice, “It’s ok to not be ok. Take time for yourself if you need it and remember that there are always people there to help you. You are not alone and we have all been through it and overcome it.”  

Remember that whatever you are going through is normal. Never let anyone make you feel ashamed or embarrassed about what you are going through, and when you are ready, reach out for help. No matter what stage you are in in your life, it is ok to feel confused, but always remember, it will get better, and there is someone who has gone through what you have and who can help you.

I think that many students have been fighting a silent battle with themselves. Stress is invisible, almost impossible to catch without warning.