Gen Z Balances Mental Wellness and Ambition to Drive Personal Growth

Survey reveals the key traits of the generation coming after the Millennials.

Gen Z young woman wearing a hoodie outdoors.

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Does a tendency to be open about mental health struggles, and a rejection of hustle culture feel like a fitting description of the American next-gen people you know? With members of different generations seen to have defining characteristics, a recent report from Gallup and the Walton Family Foundation, “Voices of Gen Z: Perspectives on STEM Education and Careers,” on the generation born between 1997 and 2011, sheds light on the emerging values of this demographic. Based on spring 2023 research involving over 3000 participants aged 12-26, it aims to capture the voices of Gen Z on the key issues that this generation faces.

A healthier approach to mental health challenges
As CNN details, the report shows that members of Gen Z are far more likely to experience negative emotions like stress, anxiety, and loneliness,  than preceding generations. In fact a smaller proportion of this generation is thriving compared to Millennials at the same age, with only 47 percent reporting that they are thriving in their lives, a figure that descends to 41 percent among respondents aged 18-26.

As ACENDA Integrated Health reports, what distinguishes this generation, though, is a healthy openness about mental health and seeking help, that aims to break the stigma associated with it. 

Interestingly, this openness is something that can make comparing the self-reported mental states of Gen Zers with those of earlier generations, less likely to report mental health challenges, harder to do.  These next-gen employees, meanwhile, are boldly incorporating discussions about mental health into the workplace, so comfortable are they with sharing such challenges. 

Arthur Evens, CEO of the American Psychological Association, told CNN: “This generation may be more tuned in to recognizing issues with their mental health than older generations.”

This is something echoed by multiple articles including one in Forbes, that examined what the rise of mental health awareness among Gen-Zers means for brand marketing.

Members of Gen Z are also more open to boosting their wellbeing by embracing digital wellness apps and mental health programs alongside traditional therapy. 

The ‘Lazy Girl Trend’ defies hustle culture
The Gallup and Walton Family Foundation report also reveals a shift in work priorities among members of this generation. Rather than submitting to the stresses of hustle culture, these young professionals are cultivating a new and fulfilling balance between work and leisure that safeguards their mental health. There is an emphasis on self-care and setting boundaries to cultivate better work-life integration.

But Gen Zers remain savvy and ambitious, in a way this lazy girl label doesn’t do justice to. They favor well-paid, flexible employment with potential for professional growth and they are making strides. Young workers have achieved an impressive 30 percent average raise in the past year, the report shows.  This ambition is backed by other findings from the research including that making “enough money to live comfortably” is Gen Z’s “most frequently cited hope for the future,” with 69 percent of those surveyed ranking it among their top wishes.

Meanwhile, Gen Z workers are investing in acquiring new skill sets through platforms like LinkedIn Learning.

Optimism and confidence reign despite the challenges!
Significantly, as CNN points out, optimism still manages to triumph among these next-gen responders. Over three-quarters of them see a great future ahead for themselves even if less than half of them feel they’re fully prepared for what lies ahead. An impressive 75 percent of Gen Z youth report that they are interested in at least one career from the fields of life and physical science, technology, engineering, or math, for instance.

The trend-aware AXIOS portal speaks about Gen Z’s “surprise optimism” about the future because despite the pandemic, social strife, a sense of a lack of preparedness and support which they blame on schools and the community, and widespread struggles with mental health, the research shows that they feel positive about the future. 82 percent of them, for instance, believe they will achieve their goals. 

As the report puts it: “There is quite an enduring optimism in the face of mental health struggles for this generation.”

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