Health and Wellness

More than 7 in 10 Gen-Zers report symptoms of depression during pandemic, survey finds

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From increased stress and anxiety to rising levels of loneliness, the mental health consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic are wide-sweeping. A new survey from the American Psychological Association points to the age group that's been hit hardest: Gen-Z.

Gen-Z adults, those ages 18 to 23, reported the highest levels of stress compared to other generations and were the most likely age group to report symptoms of depression, according to the APA's 2020 Stress in America survey.

More than seven in 10 Gen-Z adults surveyed said they experienced common symptoms of depression in the prior two weeks, such as: feeling so tired they sat around and did nothing, having trouble thinking and concentrating and feeling very restless, lonely, miserable or unhappy.

So why is Gen-Z hit so hard with stress and depression during the pandemic? They are "experiencing adulthood at a time when the future looks uncertain," while older generations might have more perspective that enables them to cope with the changes, according to the report.

Fear and anxiety tend to run hand-in-hand, Kevin Antshel, clinical psychologist and director of the clinical psychology program at Syracuse University previously told CNBC Make It. "The more things are uncertain, the more we're going to fear, and the more we fear things, the more we are anxious," he said. And prolonged anxiety can lead to depression.

The APA survey took place from Aug. 4 to Aug. 26. When asked to rank their stress level on a scale of one to 10 the prior month, Gen-Z adults said they experienced the highest level of stress, 6.1 out of 10, compared to other generations.

To put that in perspective, millennials (ages 24-41) ranked their stress level 5.6 out of 10, and Gen X (ages 42-55) said their stress was a 5.2 out of 10. The overall reported stress level for adults in 2020 is 5.0.

For Gen-Z teens, ages 13 to 17, 51% said that the pandemic made it impossible to plan for the future, and 67% of Gen-Z adults in college said the same. The Gen-Z adults in college also said that uncertainty about the school year was a significant source of stress.

There are a few strategies that the APA says can help decrease anxiety and build emotional resilience in young people. For starters, giving young people outlets to talk about issues that are troubling them is important. Practicing the rule of "three good things," in which you reflect on three good things that happened at the end of the day, may be helpful the APA suggests.

It's also crucial to remember that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, and we all may need more flexibility, space or support than usual, according to the APA.

The APA's Stress in America survey was conducted with the Harris Poll and consisted of more than 3,000 adults ages 18 and older, plus a sample of 1,026 teens ages 13 to 17.  

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