Do you feel overwhelmed? Growing up is, and always has been, a stressful experience. The culmination of technological advancements, economical circumstances, and societal evolution has resulted in a very unique situation for millennials. If university and the road ahead are overwhelming you, you are far from alone.
The American Psychological Association has found that financial concerns have remained the top stressor for young people for over a decade. According to the Canadian Federation of Students, student loans across the nation totalled $15 billion in 2013, while the youth unemployment rate was at 14%. Pressures exist to excel at school and in the career to follow. Coupled with ever-rising post-secondary expenses and a job market flooded with high-quality applicants, those pressures are skyrocketing. This has led to a slew of physical and mental repercussions, from high blood pressure to anxiety and depression.
This has been evident not just in Canada. The National Alliance on Mental Health found that over five million college students in the United States struggled with mental health, with more than a quarter having a diagnosable condition and receiving treatment. Dr. Gordon Flett of York University has noted this is a result of the “epidemic of perfectionism.” Millennials feel pressure to keep their grades up, engage in many extra-curricular activities, and emerge from school ready to change the world.
Unhealthy coping mechanisms abound. Millennials are more likely to binge watch entire seasons of a series, browse the Internet aimlessly, and sleep longer hours than other generations. The advent of social media allows for connectivity unlike never before. But it comes at a price. We scrub out negativity in our social media profiles and present our best selves to friends and colleagues, resulting in our instinctual desire to compare ourselves to one another to be conducted through false lenses. We compound external stressors with self-driven pressure.
As technology creates new opportunities while making many old jobs obsolete, and as income inequality stretches well beyond reason, millennials face challenges unlike those of previous eras. There may not be a World War or famine. If you go back three or four generations, it is likely your ancestors were struggling to farm the land in brutal conditions. Many immigrants came to North America to escape that harshness, and in doing so removed many of obstacles for their offspring. Like them, however, millennials are tasked with coping with the circumstances dealt to them and forging ahead.
There are hints around us of what that entails. More and more young people are eschewing mortgages and embracing the freedom and cost-effectiveness of renting. Universal basic income is gaining traction as an offset to the jobs that will be lost to automation. Depression and anxiety are losing their social stigma, with treatment options such as therapy and medication gaining acceptance. Youth are protesting, engaging in activism for many causes, and taking more and more interest in preserving the planet for future generations.
There is hope amidst the madness.
Chai, Carmen and Allison Vuchnich. “Young Minds: Millennials facing increased rates of stress compared to other generations.” Global News. http://globalnews.ca/news/548478/young-minds-millennials-facing-increased-rates-of-stress-compared-to-other-generations/
Heck, Laura. “A generation on edge: A look at millennials and mental health.” Vox Magazine. http://www.voxmagazine.com/news/features/a-generation-on-edge-a-look-at-millennials-and-mental/article_533c1384-fe5b-5321-84ae-8070ec158f17.html
Loria, Kevin. “It’s official: millennials are the most stressed-out generation.” Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/millennials-are-the-most-stressed-out-2015-2