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Do Millennials Have More Mental Health Issues? Anxiety and Depression in the Largest Generation

Aug 20, 2022

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Do Millennials Have More Mental Health Issues? Anxiety and Depression in the Largest Generation

American millennials have lived through a massive recession, a decades-long war, an earth-shattering pandemic, and an impending climate threat. They’ve surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest generation in our history. They’ve also got more than their fair share of mental illness, especially anxiety and depression. Let’s talk about mental health issues in millennials. 

 

The millennial generation was born between about 1981 and 1996. In 2022, older millennials will be in their early 40s, and younger ones will be in their mid-20s. The July 2019 census found that Millennials had surpassed Baby Boomers to become the largest generation in U.S. history, at 72.1 million people.  

 

Millennials are pretty unique as a generation. Many still think of millennials as the generation of selfies and participation trophies. They’ve been called “snowflakes” and “self-absorbed.” They’ve also faced their unique challenges. Here are some interesting facts about millennials:

 

  • Millennials are the most well-educated generation in history. College attendance has been rising over the last several decades. In 2018, about 37% of millennials had a college degree. This compared to about 33% of Baby Boomers and 25% of the Silent Generation. 

 

  • People still think of Millennials as young adults, but they’ll soon overtake older generations of workers. By 2025, Millennials will make up to 75% of the U.S. workforce. 

 

  • Millennials are paving the way for a more multicultural country. Most Baby Boomers were born into a world that was much less accepting of immigrants from non-white countries. A 2018 Brookings report found that 44% of millennials identified as a minority, making this generation the most diverse yet. 

 

  • The economics of a large recession and the pandemic have affected millennials’ lives. Millennials are more likely to be in poverty and less likely to own a home than other generations were at their age.

 

Previous generations like to sneer at the young people who come after them. But millennials have come of age in a challenging time. If you’re a millennial, KarmaDocs wants you to know that your feelings are valid. Let’s talk about whether your generation is more at risk for mental health illnesses than others. 

Do Millennials Have More Mental Issues?

Maybe. Rates of anxiety and depression are measured higher amongst millennials than in any other generation. A 2020 Blue Cross Blue Shield report found that major depression diagnoses are rising faster in millennials and teenagers than in any other generation. The same report found that millennials are more likely to get depression than any other health condition. 

 

The only generation to potentially surpass millennials is Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012. A 2018 report found that Gen Z youth were most likely to self-report poor mental health than any other generation. When polled, 91% of Gen Z between 18 and 21 reported symptoms of stress in the last month. 

 

These measurements sound scary. It’s no doubt that millennials and Gen Z face unique adversities, and we’ll talk about those. 

 

But these results are tempered by a few things. Our cultural perceptions of mental health have changed profoundly over the last several decades. Depression wasn’t even diagnosable in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual until 1980. It wasn’t in our everyday language until much later. 

 

Millennials and generations after them have the advantage of growing up in a culture that’s much more aware of mental health than we used to be. Previous generations didn’t have the vocabulary or understanding of mental health illnesses that the average person does today. 

 

These greater sociological changes mean millennials live in a very different world than previous generations, one where people are aware of depression and anxiety. Because of massive efforts to de-stigmatize mental health illness, millennials may seek help more than older adults. 

 

At the same time, there are larger factors that may make millennials more at risk of depression and anxiety. Let’s talk about them.   

Why Do Millennials Have More Mental Illness?

Millennials have come of age during a turbulent time in our country. Our past experiences significantly affect how we interpret our daily experiences. Here are some factors that could be contributing to mental health illnesses in millennials.

Economics and Millennial Mental Health

The 2008 economic crisis affected millennials when they were building an understanding of finances. Many millennial youths watched their parents lose their homes or retirement accounts. This created a bedrock of financial anxiety for many young people. 

 

Older millennials faced other challenges, coming out of college or high school to a sparse job market. They had to move in with their parents, which is associated with more shame in U.S. culture than other countries. They took jobs they were overqualified for and/or ones that didn’t pay enough. 

 

Life is more expensive for millennials. They’ve faced higher college costs than any other generation while getting paid less after accounting for inflation. Tuition for higher education doubled between 1989 and 2016, compared to wage growth of only .3%.

 

Economic setbacks have forced millennials to put off major life events, like getting married and buying homes. Instead of contributing to retirement, they have to pay off student loans. This means that millennials are less likely to experience the economic benefits of owning their homes, splitting bills, and investing. Millennials are more financially behind, contributing to numerous mental health concerns like anxiety and stress around finances. 

Climate Change and Mental Health Among Millennials

As we’ve come to understand climate change and its effects on our lives, millennials are having to wrap their heads around a rapidly changing world. Climate anxiety is a growing phenomenon among Millennials and Gen Z, who worry about the world they inherit. 

 

Many millennials are noticing climate change in real-time. They may live in areas that are getting hotter and drier every summer, like our office in Palm Springs, CA. They’re seeing more intense hurricanes in the southeastern states or less winter snowfall in the Rockies. The world’s weather is changing before our eyes, contributing to climate anxiety and hopelessness in millennials. 

 

Climate change will affect the lives of millennials and the generations after them in ways we don’t yet know. This uncertainty can lead to mental health issues, especially anxiety and depression in millennials. 

COVID-19 and the Millennial Mental Crisis

COVID-19 worsened the mental health of millennials. Economic and social uncertainty has led to more anxiety and depression across age groups in the last few years. Check out these startling statistics on millennial mental health and substance use from Blue Cross Blue Shield:

 

  • 92% reported that the pandemic had a negative effect on their mental health. 
  • 34% said that their alcohol consumption went up because of the pandemic.
  • 20% increased their smoking habit, while 17% vaped more because of COVID-19.

 

COVID, climate change, and economic difficulties can contribute to a feeling of hopelessness amongst millennials. 

Existential Dread Amongst Millennials 

Previous generations have lived in a world where they were expected to do better than their parents. They were expected to live longer, make more money, and be happier than those who came before them. But this isn’t necessarily true for the millennial generation, who grapple with fewer opportunities, more anxiety, and less optimism.

 

It’s understandable that under these circumstances, millennials may feel hopeless. They may feel like the world is getting worse for them, not better. But there is hope for millennials who are feeling anxiety and depression. Let’s talk about solutions for millennials facing mental health issues like anxiety and depression. 

Solutions for Millennials With Anxiety and Depression

If you’re a millennial worried about the future, know that you’re not alone. If you speak with your friends about your fears, they’ll probably tell you they feel the same. Connecting and bonding with your loved ones can help you feel more supported. 

 

Stepping away from social media, taking a walk, or reading a book can help you get a quieter headspace and positively impact your mental health. The 24-hour social media and news cycle can keep you locked in a doom scroll that feels never-ending. We’re inundated with more content every day than ever before. Sometimes, a little perspective can help comfort your fears and anxieties about the future. 

 

Remember that the future has always been uncertain. Our futures aren’t set in stone, and life can get better. If you ask your parents about times when they feared for their generation, they’ll likely tell you about the Cold War or the Civil Rights Movement. These were other periods of massive uncertainty, followed by growth and positive change. Everyone’s mental health differs, especially those in different generations. 

 

If at-home solutions don’t lessen your depression and anxiety, it may be time to seek professional help. As a millennial, you’re probably more literate about mental health than your parents. You’re also more skilled at looking up mental health providers online and using telemedicine visits. These skills make you well-positioned to get help. 

 

Learn more about our strategies for treating depression and anxiety on our services page, or book an appointment with one of our compassionate providers using the “Book Online” button on our homepage. We’re ready to help you find a balance to live a healthy life you’re happy with.  

 

Resources: 

1. Fry, R. (2021, May 28). Millennials overtake baby boomers as America's largest generation. Pew Research Center. Retrieved August 9, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/28/millennials-overtake-baby-boomers-as-americas-largest-generation/

2. Berkeley Institute for the Future of Young Americans . (2019, July). Millennials: The Most Educated Generation?

3.DeLoitte. (2014, January). Big Demands and High Expectations: The DeLoitte Millennial Survey.

4.Frey, W. H. (2022, March 9). The millennial generation: A demographic bridge to America's diverse future. Brookings. Retrieved August 9, 2022, from https://www.brookings.edu/research/millennials/

5.Two million commercially insured Americans diagnosed with major depression are not seeking any treatment. Blue Cross Blue Shield. (n.d.). Retrieved August 9, 2022, from https://www.bcbs.com/the-health-of-america/articles/two-million-commercially-insured-americans-diagnosed-major-depression-not-seeking-treatment

6. American Psychology Association. (2018, October). PDF.

7.Maldonado, C. (2021, June 29). Price of college increasing almost 8 times faster than wages. Forbes. Retrieved August 9, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/camilomaldonado/2018/07/24/price-of-college-increasing-almost-8-times-faster-than-wages/?sh=2eb726cd66c1

8.Monthly Labor Review. (2014, September). Millennials After the Great Recession.

9.Clayton, S. (2020). Climate anxiety: Psychological responses to climate change. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 74, 102263. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2020.102263

10.Millennial health: Trends in behavioral health conditions. Blue Cross Blue Shield. (n.d.). Retrieved August 9, 2022, from https://www.bcbs.com/the-health-of-america/reports/millennial-health-trends-behavioral-health-conditions