While Millennials are more aware than other generations, their mental health continues to decline. This generation, defined as those aged 24-39 in 2020, is experiencing a health shock fueled by mental health difficulties. These alarming trends are driving new responses to meet the needs of these unique young people and help them cope given the current circumstances.
Mental health awareness is not the main problem with this cohort. They have much less stigma regarding mental health and are receiving more education on the topic. Sometimes referred to as the “therapy generation” and also called the “burnout generation”, millennials are going to therapy at younger ages and with less reservations than older generations. This makes millennials more emotionally savvy, open-hearted and sensitive than older generations. Because they have grown up with the internet and social media they are educated and there’s a cultural movement going on that supports transparency, authenticity and wellness.
Mental illness is rising in every country in the world and millennials suffer disproportionately from depression, bipolar disorder, drug abuse, anxiety, attention-deficit disorders (ADD and ADHD) and suicide. They are experiencing a faster decline in their physical and mental health than Gen X and its predicted that millennials might see a 40% increase in mortality compared with the previous generation. Factors influencing this so-called “health shock” include behavioural health issues such as depression, ADD, and anxiety as well as substance abuse problems. Other historical health shocks have been the AIDS epidemic on baby boomers and the effects of the Vietnam War.
Millennials have experienced a 47% increase in major depression diagnoses, with the illness affecting now 4.4% of the generation. Among all health conditions affecting millennials, major depression had the highest prevalence rate according to a 2017 American study. This mental health problem is characterized by a severe, persistent low mood and profound sadness. Despite its unfortunate rise, 20% of millennials aren’t seeking treatment – most likely because they can’t afford it.
Although suicide and death from substance abuse has also increased across all age groups in the past 10 years, millennials have seen the greatest increase with 36,000 deaths in 2017 in the US alone. This is often attributed to millennials’ inclination to engage in risky behaviours, their involvement in the military and that they disproportionately live in high-stress environments such as correctional facilities.
The World Health Organization cites that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion a year in lost productivity and depression is the fastest-growing health condition among millennials. Half of millennials said they had left jobs in part because of mental health reasons according to a 2019 survey by Mind Share Partners.
These higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression may be caused by financial debt, consumption of social media, heavier workloads and the technological advances that keep us plugged in to work. Many millennials had their careers crippled by the 2008 recession and are now experiencing another economic downturn just as they are supposed to be reaching their career peaks. The COVID-19 outbreaks and social distancing restrictions have made dating and finding a partner more difficult and the isolation of quarantine life is exacerbating feelings of social disconnection as the “loneliest generation” gets lonelier.
Millennials are inspiring healthcare systems and employers to adapt and rethink treatment options for mental health difficulties. Coping with these challenges starts with acceptance and communication. Creating a sense of community, making plans to mitigate risk factors and encouraging mindfulness are useful tools for yourself, your loved ones and your employees when dealing with mental health issues.
Workplace culture is finally evolving to support millennials who have often grown up acknowledging these invisible illnesses by going to support groups or professional therapy. Destigmatizing mental health is the first step to individual improvement. By normalizing mental health issues, we can feel empowered to make proactive decisions about managing our own health and well-being. Since mental health issues can be isolating, connecting with others is key to finding relief. Whether it’s in the form of peer-to-peer support groups, stress management programs, professional therapy or otherwise, mental health can be managed with extremely effective results.
So check in on your loved ones, take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help!