Gen Z and Mental Health in the Workplace: What’s Driving the Rise in Ill Health?


In a recent report, the Resolution Foundation has highlighted a concerning link between Gen Z and mental health struggles: individuals in their early twenties are more likely to be out of work due to ill health, with mental health emerging as a significant contributing factor.

Contrary to historical patterns, where older age groups were more affected, today’s young adults face greater challenges in maintaining employment due to poor mental health.

Statistics reveal a stark reality: one in twenty young people are economically inactive due to ill health, underscoring the urgency of addressing mental health issues among this demographic. The prevalence of mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, has increased dramatically over the years, with a notable rise reported among individuals aged 18-24.

Experts point to various factors driving this trend. Adam Jones, policy and public affairs manager at YoungMinds, attributes the surge in mental health conditions among young people to a myriad of societal challenges.

These include the impact of the pandemic, economic instability, academic pressures, and the pervasive influence of social media. Additionally, individual circumstances such as relationship breakdowns and trauma exacerbate mental health struggles.

Tobba Vigfusdottir, CEO and founder of Kara Connect, emphasizes the role of social media in amplifying stress levels, particularly among young women. The constant exposure to curated realities on social platforms contributes to heightened anxiety and negatively impacts brain development.

While destigmatization efforts have encouraged more open conversations about mental health, experts caution against attributing the rise solely to increased awareness. Structural factors, including economic inequality and inadequate support systems, play a significant role in exacerbating mental health challenges among young people.

Gen Z and Mental Health Struggles

The impact of mental health issues extends beyond personal well-being to workforce participation. Jones highlights the economic implications of addressing mental health in the workplace, urging policymakers to prioritize support for young individuals.

Contrary to stereotypes portraying young people as ‘snowflakes,’ experts emphasize the need for empathy and understanding. Trivializing their struggles undermines the societal and economic factors unique to their generation. Vigfusdottir underscores the importance of tailored support and acknowledges the changing attitudes of younger employees towards work-life balance.

Addressing mental health in the workplace requires a multifaceted approach. Vigfusdottir advocates for integrating mental health support in education and implementing supportive policies in workplaces. Drawing inspiration from successful initiatives in Nordic countries, she suggests prioritizing holistic approaches to well-being.

Jones emphasizes the significance of simple gestures in supporting struggling young individuals at work. Often, a compassionate approach and face-to-face communication can make a significant difference in their well-being.

The testimonial of Elsa, a 22-year-old YoungMinds Activist, highlights the challenges faced by young individuals grappling with mental health issues in the workplace. Her experience underscores the importance of proactive measures to support mental health in the workforce.

In conclusion, addressing mental health challenges among Generation Z requires collective action from policymakers, employers, and society as a whole. By prioritizing support and implementing inclusive policies, we can create a more compassionate and supportive environment for young individuals in the workforce.

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