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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

On Edge: Understanding and Preventing Young Adults’ Mental Health Challenges

Making Caring Common. (2023).

From the Executive Summary

Our recent data suggests that the young adults of Generation Z are experiencing emotional struggles at alarming rates. While the emotional struggles of teens have been in the national spotlight since the pandemic—and this attention has been vital—according to our nationally representative survey, young adults report roughly twice the rates of anxiety and depression as teens. Compared to 18% of teens, a whopping 36% of young adults in our survey reported anxiety; in contrast to 15% of teens, 29% of young adults reported depression. Far too many young adults report that they feel on edge, lonely, unmoored, directionless, and that they worry about financial security. Many are “achieving to achieve” and find little meaning in either school or work. Yet these struggles of young adults have been largely off the public radar.

From the Press Release:

The report identifies a variety of stressors that may be driving young adults’ high rates of anxiety and
depression. The top drivers of young adults’ mental health challenges include:
  • A lack of meaning, purpose, and direction: Nearly 3 in 5 young adults (58%) reported that they lacked “meaning or purpose” in their lives in the previous month. Half of young adults reported that their mental health was negatively influenced by “not knowing what to do with my life.
  • Financial worries and achievement pressure: More than half of young adults reported that financial worries (56%) and achievement pressure (51%) were negatively impacting their mental health.
  • A perception that the world is unraveling: Forty-five percent (45%) of young adults reported that a general "sense that things are falling apart” was impairing their mental health.
  • Relationship deficits: Forty-four percent (44%) of young adults reported a sense of not mattering to others and 34% reported loneliness.
  • Social and political issues: Forty-two percent (42%) reported the negative influence on their mental health of gun violence in schools, 34% cited climate change, and 30% cited worries that our political leaders are incompetent or corrupt.

The report also suggests strategies for promoting young adults’ mental health and mitigating their
emotional challenges. These include:
  • Cultivating meaning and purpose in young people, including by engaging them in caring for
  • others and service;
  • Supporting young people in developing gratifying and durable relationships; and
  • Helping young people experience their lives as more than the sum of their achievements.
“We need to do much more to support young adults’ mental health and devote more resources to prevention,” said Kiran Bhai, MCC’s Schools & Parenting Programs Director and a co-author of the
report. “This includes reducing the stressors that young people are facing and helping them develop
the skills they need to thrive.”