Compared to older Americans, Generation Z is more likely to report mental health problems and seek treatment, according to a study by the American Psychological Association.
In October 2018, the organization published the results of its 12th annual Stress in America survey. The focus of the 2018 survey was Generation Z, defined as those from age 15 to 21.
“Generation Z was much more likely to report that their mental health was ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ and that they were receiving treatment or therapy from a mental health professional,” said Dr. Caroline Vaile Wright, director of research and special projects at the APA. “They’re reporting poorer mental health but seeking out treatments for it at higher rates than other generations.”
According to the survey, only 45% of respondents from Generation Z reported “excellent” or “very good” mental health, compared to 56% of millennials, 51% of respondents from Generation X, 70% of baby boomers and 74% of older adults.
At 37%, Generation Z was also the most likely to report receiving treatment from a mental health professional. Among millennials, 35% reported such treatment, compared to 26% of Generation X, 22% of baby boomers and 15% of older adults.
Wright believes that youth are more willing to discuss their mental health and seek out treatment because of positive media influences.
“I think you are seeing this shift where celebrities, movie stars, TV stars and star athletes are being more open and writing articles about mental health,” she said. “They’re posting on social media about mental health. I think we see this possible reduction in stigma around mental health and more openness to discussing it than we have in the past.”
The survey also looked into the causes of stress among Generation Z.
“What we found in our study from last year was that Generation Z was reporting stressors related to news at a national level,” Wright said. “Things like immigration, sexual assault, mass shootings and school shootings were some of the top stressors that we saw for Generation Z.”
Other top stressors for the generation include drugs and alcohol, according to the Stress in America survey.
“Half of Generation Z reported that at least one person they know has been told they are addicted to or have a problem with drugs and alcohol,” Wright said.
In a National Public Radio interview, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said that marijuana use “hasn’t gone up, like in older populations, but it hasn’t gone down, and it remains worrisome. Another concern is we see very high and very fast uptake of electronic vaping devices.”
Offering vapor pods available in 8,000 different flavors, the tobacco industry uses electronic vaping devices to cater to younger users. What many don’t know is that one vapor pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
“They’re thinking that it’s just nicotine, but they don’t understand how much nicotine is in a pod,” said Karesa Knight, the executive director and tobacco control coordinator of Intersect Inc., a nonprofit organization in Madison County that aims to educate youth about drugs and alcohol.
Youth are using electronic vaping devices not only to consume nicotine but to consume marijuana as well.
“Back in the ’70s, when older people smoked marijuana, the marijuana had around 5% or 10% THC,” Knight said. “Today’s marijuana is about 20% THC. When they melt that down into a ‘dab’ that’s then consumed in a vaping device, the THC level reaches around 80% or 90%.”
Knight has heard of instances in which teens and young adults have been hospitalized for consuming large, concentrated quantities of marijuana. She’s concerned that youth are unaware of the potential consequences.
“Of course these kids think it’s safe,” she said. “They think it’s just a little pot.”