With millions of people suffering of anxiety, with billions spent yearly on anxiety treatments and, despite the efforts, with only 39% of patients getting any form of treatment, America is facing one of the most serious mental health crisis in the western world. The problem does not seem to stop here, given that millennials, the generation of those born in the 80’s, seem to be affected even more by anxiety symptoms when compared to baby boomers:12% of them have a diagnosed anxiety disorder and 30% of working millennials suffer from general anxiety. Why do millennials seem to be so prone to anxiety? What can we do today to avoid a future where everyone may be, to a certain degree, effected by one of the most pernicious mental health issues? Here are our thoughts:
Why are millennials so anxious?
American Psychological Association (APA) argues that millennials face more stress and their coping mechanisms are not particularly helpful. While Baby-boomers worry about health and family issues, millennials have other reasons to stay up at night: low-income, student debt, job competition, social insecurity and the housing crisis. While some of these factors cannot be immediately erased from their lives, learning to manage anxiety around them is very important. It is also helpful if other reasons of stress were acknowledged and dealt with, amongst which:
Bad sleeping habits: we live in a world where pushing productivity to the highest limits is encouraged and even expected. This often means that millennials prefer to cut down on sleep to finish their work, binging on coffee and energy drinks. Freelancing or spending more than 8 hours a day working is not uncommon either. Because for this generation work is about results and not the amount of time spent in the office, many will continue working late in the night to get things done, seeing their loved ones less or sleeping less.
Sedentary life is on the rise, although healthy lifestyle choices seem more popular with this generation. A sedentary lifestyle usually comes with a poor diet, which translates in higher anxiety rates, on top of other health concerns.
Technology is millennials’ best friend and their silent enemy. Students spend about 9 hours a day on their phones, while working millennials in office jobs at least 8 hours staring at a screen. To many of them, relaxation time is about binging on Netflix, despite the fact that studies show that after only two hours of watching television people tend to feel more anxious.
Millennials are also the first digital generation and their presence on social media is the norm these days. While their preference for social media seems to have a positive economical impact, effects on a personal level can often be negative. First of all, there is usually a difference between what is expected of you on social media and the reality you live in. There is a pressure to display your happiest and most relaxed self online although you might feel quite the opposite in real life. Many online social connections do not mean many friends. The numbers of people with less than 3 close friends has continuously increased since 1985, with millennials being the ones to report most often “zero close friends”. On the other hand, anxious people tend to gather with other anxious people, which will inflate anxiety symptoms for everyone.
Finally, the balance between work, relationships and personal time is very sensitive and rarely achieved. Working long hours, not having enough time or emotional availability for others or themselves, millennials are riding a wheel that makes them more anxious the faster it spins.
Is there a way to stop it?
There is a silver lining indeed: millennials are valuing experiences more than things. While this can be an anxiety-provoking choice for older generations, for millennials it can open the door to a better relationship with themselves and to a more fulfilling life. This generation tends to prefer investing in themselves rather than in expensive objects and understands that a happy life is not necessarily about how much you have, but how well you can enjoy it. This is why many would go for personal development courses, enrol on creative classes or periodically try new things. They are more sensitive, but also more emotionally open than other generations, more willing to self-examine while assisted by trained professionals, and flexible enough to try to implement changes when proven that things don’t work for them.
Leading the best life you can have is possible and it is also your right. If you are one of the millennials who need to explore anxiety-related symptoms, to make sense of what is happening to you and to turn vulnerability into strength, Counseling Centre for Emotional Growth is the place for you. Our counselors and psychotherapists will provide the safe, confidential and nurturing space you need in order to find inner peace, balance and meaning. We are here to help.