Mental health: Gen Z lacks fulfillment, but is optimistic about the future

Mental health: Gen Z lacks fulfillment, but is optimistic about the future

Inflation, climate crisis, unemployment, pandemic… Gen Z, whose members were born between 1997 and 2011, must face significant, sometimes unprecedented, challenges and obstacles as soon as they enter the world of work – just like their lives of adult. A complex time which is not unrelated to the deterioration of the mental health of this young generation, although a new report shows a renewed optimism when it comes to looking to the future.

Studies on the mental health of the youngest generations follow one another and are similar: it is continually deteriorating, linked to the multiple stress factors that this public faces, from digital challenges to economic precariousness, including social pressure and environmental concerns. In a report dating from November 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that one in seven young people aged 10 to 19 years old is affected by a mental disorder worldwide, leading to “social exclusion, discrimination, stigmatization, educational difficulties, risky behaviors (and) physical health problems.” So many harmful effects which do not allow this young generation to put themselves in the best conditions to prepare for the future, and face the present.

Well-being shaken compared to their elders

In their latest report, Gallup and the Walton Family Foundation looked at how this generation is thriving, the issues they face, and their prospects for the future, by surveying more than 3,000 Americans ages 12 to 26. And the findings are mixed: a small proportion say they are doing well, or benefit from “excellent” mental health, but this does not seem to (completely) affect their vision of a future… which they hope is much more prosperous. Among the main lessons, only 47% of members of this generation say they are in a prosperous situation, one of the lowest rates among all generations (59% of millennials, 57% of X). Only the silent generation seems to feel less fulfilled with only 45% of respondents saying they are doing well.

Interestingly, the study authors compared the mindset of Generation Z with that of millennials at the same age, to determine whether this lack of fulfillment is linked – or not – to a specific life stage . Verdict: 59% and 60% of millennials aged 18 to 26 said they were doing well in 2009 and 2014, respectively, when they were the same age as today’s Zs. The latter are only 41% today. An observation that turns out to be the same when we look at the mental and emotional well-being of this young generation, which is much lower than that of their older counterparts. In 2023, only 15% of Z aged 18 to 26 consider their mental health to be “excellent”, whereas 52% of current millennials said so a decade ago, when they were the same age.

A more serene future?

Aware of the problems they face, whatever their nature, members of Generation Z nonetheless remain optimistic – overall – about their future. Two thirds of them believe, for example, that they will be able to land the job of their dreams, while more than three quarters (76%) believe they have a bright future ahead of them. The proportion even rises to 82% when asked if they think they can achieve their goals. Who spoke of a disillusioned generation? The prospects of young people do not seem in any way damaged by the challenges they are currently trying to overcome – or almost. A downside is raised by the study: barely more than four Americans out of ten (44%) say they feel prepared for the future (48% among respondents aged 22 to 26).

When looking ahead to the future, Gen Zers hope above all to earn enough money to be able to live fairly comfortably. This is one of their main concerns about the future (69% have this hope), ahead of getting married or finding a life partner (35%), combining personal passion and work (33%), buying a house (32%), or having a positive influence on the world, or at least on their community (31%). A result which nevertheless shows concerns about the financial situation of these young people in the future. They also consider financial resources as an obstacle to achieving their professional goals, and more precisely to one of the paths they hope to take in the future (64%).

The results of this report are based on an online Gallup Panel survey, carried out from April 24 to May 8, 2023, among a sample of 3,114 young people aged 12 to 26 living in the United States (50 states plus the District of Columbia). To view the full report: