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Study: Less than half of Gen Z thriving, lowest among all generations

Among the 3,000 participants in the study, researchers discovered that only 41% of those aged 18 to 26 are thriving.
Study: Less than half of Gen Z thriving, lowest among all generations
Posted at 2:40 PM, Sep 14, 2023

In the U.S., less than half of Gen Z members are thriving in life, a rate lower than millennials at the same age in the early 2000s and among the lowest of all generations in the country today.

A new study, conducted by Gallup in collaboration with the Walton Family Foundation and released on Thursday, utilized a scale to assess whether individuals are "thriving, struggling, or suffering." 

The overall study

In April and May of this year, researchers conducted surveys among over 3,000 individuals aged 12 to 26, and those who were involved in the study were tasked with rating their perceptions of both their present and future lives, with those offering high ratings in both categories classified as "thriving," the report stated.

"Decisions affecting public policy, learning environments, and workplaces should consider the perspectives of—not about—Gen Z, the challenges they face, and the solutions that best suit their unique needs," the study said.

Among the 3,000 participants, researchers discovered that only 41% of those aged 18 to 26 are thriving. In comparison, when millennials were the same age as Gen Z is now, Gallup recorded thriving rates of 59% and 60% in 2009 and 2014. 

In general, today 47% of individuals aged 12 to 26 are thriving in their lives, which is one of the lowest rates compared to other generations, such as Millenials at 59%, Gen X at 57%, Baby Boomers at 52%. Only the Silent Generation (aged 71 and older) competes with Gen Z, with 45% considered thriving.

The study also shows that when rating their current lives from 0 to 10, 53% of Gen Z give a 7 or higher, and 68% project their lives five years ahead as an 8 or higher. 

What does this mean for generational mental health?

Besides having lower life evaluations, the study also shows that Gen Z members also tend to rate their mental health significantly lower compared to their older counterparts.

Only 15% of 18- to 26-year-olds consider their current mental health "excellent," while 29% of Millennials, 31% of Gen X, 39% of Baby Boomers, and 33% of the Silent generation do so.

The study also shows that within Gen Z, more women experience negative emotions, particularly stress and anxiety, compared to men, but overall, Gen Z is optimistic about their future, especially when they have an adult who encourages them to pursue their goals and dreams.

Surprisingly, when considering the statistical disparities between Black and White individuals in the labor market, it's notable that 44% of Black Gen Z members strongly believe in a promising future ahead of them, in contrast to 30% of Hispanic and 31% of White Gen Z members.

Overall, only 44% of Gen Z report feeling prepared for their future, the study found. 

How important is generational research?

While this data sheds light on our nation's mental health status, it's important to note that generational research can be challenging and may not accurately represent the diverse experiences of millions of people nationwide or even worldwide.

Generational differences result from three main factors: Life stage, current circumstances, and the unique experiences of each generation, something the Pew Research Center has brought up in the past. 

"When a life cycle effect is at play, differences between younger and older people are largely due to their respective positions in the life cycle," the Pew Research Center said.

Meanwhile, various generations have also been shaped by what Pew refers to as "period effects." These effects emerge from events and circumstances such as wars, social movements, economic fluctuations, scientific or technological advancements, terrorist attacks, and various others that impact society as a whole, but not necessarily all at once. For Gen Z, a significant portion of that population has encountered disruptions in their education due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in substantial learning setbacks, something millennials and older generations never had to go through.

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