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It seems that since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been living in stressful, uncertain times.
COVID-19 variants continue to emerge, and other infectious diseases, such as monkeypox, are also wreaking havoc on populations.
In summer 2022, inflation reached record-high levels not seen since 1981, and the housing market continues to see rising interest rates that push many buyers, including Gen Z and Millennials, out of the market.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also sent shock waves of worry through countries all over the world.
With so much going on, where do Gen Z and Millennials’ wellbeing stand? What is their greatest concern?
A recent global report by Deloitte provides some answers.
Who Are Gen Z and Millennials?
As defined in the report, Gen Z respondents were born between January 1995 and December 2003.
Millennial respondents were born between January 1983 and December 1994.
Why Study Gen Z and Millennials?
In short, these are the generations that will shape our future.
Thus far, these generations have been heavily influential in addressing systemic issues, such as racism, discrimination, and climate change. They are also more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations, and the most well-educated.
What Is Gen Z and Millennials’ Top Concern Right Now?
Gen Z and Millennials are concerned about a variety of global issues, but the rising cost of living tops the chart as their biggest worry, followed closely by climate change.
“They don’t feel financially secure personally, and at a broader societal level, they are deeply concerned about wealth inequality,” according to the report.
- Almost half of Gen Zs (46%) and Millennials (47%) live paycheck to paycheck and worry they won’t be able to cover their expenses.
- More than a quarter of Gen Zs (26%) and Millennials (31%) are not confident they will be able to retire comfortably.
- Around three-quarters of Gen Zs (72%) and Millennials (77%) agree that the gap between the richest and poorest people in their country is widening.
- As many as 43% of Gen Zs and 33% of Millennials have a second part- or full-time paying job in addition to their primary job to compensate for the rising cost of living.
What Does this Mean for Gen Z and Millennial Health?
Living paycheck to paycheck and working multiple jobs to make ends meet can take a toll on anyone.
It can be hard on both the mind and body – and potentially leaves very little time and money to properly take care of oneself.
Add the stress of everything else going on in the world, and you’ve got Gen Zs and Millennials who are constantly on edge.
“I’ve been extremely concerned about COVID-19 since it showed up more than two years ago. This has been less of a central concern over the past year, but I still think it’s a problem,” noted Rebecca, a 25-year-old study participant. “I’m also concerned about the rising mental health problems in the US and around the world and an increased sense of nihilism and hopelessness everywhere. I’m very concerned about the rising cost of living and especially cost of housing and rent. I’m concerned about conflict in Russia and Ukraine, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and other global conflicts. All of these things prompt me to have at least a low level of stress basically at all times.”
Prolonged periods of stress aren’t healthy for anyone of any age. Stress can lead to both physical and mental health issues.
In 2019, only 11.7% of Latinos age 18-44 sought mental health treatment, and that percentage rose only slightly to 12.8% through 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In comparison, 23.8% of whites aged 18-44 sought mental health treatment in 2019, with that percentage rising to 30.4% in 2021.
Overall, no matter the racial or ethnic background, almost a quarter of Gen Zs and Millennials are seeking mental health treatment to cope with the difficult times, including the cost of living.
While this statistic may be partially explained by these two generations being more open to mental health treatment, comments by study participants in Deloitte’s report suggests otherwise.
“My biggest concern is the amount of turmoil that exists in the world, which is seemingly getting worse,” said Matt, a 29-year-old study participant. “We have one large existential crisis after another, and I think the challenge is everyone is exhausted with having to be resilient…we’re not truly able to solve the issues we’re faced with. Instead, we put a plaster on it and inevitably the problem comes back bigger. This unrest and turmoil then plays out in the financial markets, in the economy, in politics and this coupled with the climate crisis is making everyone more stressed than ever before.”
What Can We Do to Help Gen Zs and Millennials?
Of course, there is no magic wand that can immediately lower the cost of living and solve other global problems.
But US policymakers are listening and trying to help.
In April 2022, the Biden Administration published an update on their American Rescue Plan, which has lowered the cost of Affordable Care Act healthcare plans, and increased enrollment to an all-time high.
In May 2022, the Biden Administration announced a Housing Supply Action Plan to make housing more affordable by boosting the supply of quality housing in communities nationwide.
The Biden Administration made history in August 2022 with the announcement of a student loan forgiveness plan that, once implemented, will help many young people breathe a sigh of financial relief.
In the same month, the Biden Administration also passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which will help fight inflation by lowering energy and healthcare costs, and by bringing down the government’s outstanding debt.
Outside of lowering the cost of living, other great changes are happening.
The Biden Administration is tackling climate change. Despite continued concerns about COVID-19, infectious disease experts are saying that the virus is now “under control.”
You can help our nation by pushing for local equitable changes.
Select your county and get a Health Equity Report Card by Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio.
In your report card, you will see maps, data, and gauges to compare health equity issues, including poverty rates and housing, to the rest of your state and nation.
You can email your Health Equity Report Card to local leaders to stimulate community change. Use the data in your materials or share on social media to raise awareness of the issues Gen Zs and Millennials are facing, and what we can do to help.