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Gen Z Stress: What’s Causing it & How They’re Coping

If you could peek inside the typical Gen Z mind, it would look a lot like an internet browser with dozens of tabs: a lot is going on, and it’s all happening at once. Zoomers aren’t just dealing with everyday stress — they’re living with a constant deluge of information and pressure within challenging social and economic climates, and they’re coming of age in a global pandemic. That’s not news — it would be weird if we didn’t see an uptick in Gen Z stress.

In fact, a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) showed that even in the “before times” — specifically 2018 — Gen Z was the second most stressed-out generation, right behind Millennials.

Here’s something novel, though: Gen Z has no intention of simply grinning and bearing it. In fact, out of all generations, they’re the most likely to report poor mental health and seek professional help.

Want to know what’s stressing Gen Z out? Turn on the news

Zoomers have more access to on-demand information than any other generation. Gone are the days when you’d know what’s happening only in your social group. Gen Z can access just about any information in a few clicks. This includes all the hardships and challenges going around the world, and that’s overwhelming. 

Gen Z has grown up in the era of climate change, Covid-19, political injustice, 9/11, mass shootings, family separations, student loan crises, and increased awareness of movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. Gen Z’s dedication to social justice often means that a troubling news piece hits harder. For instance, the APA found that family separation policies stressed Gen Z out at a higher rate (57%) than the rest of the adult population (45%)

gen z stress infographic

When doomscrolling meets empathy fatigue, you have a recipe for stress and a context for Gen Z’s mental health challenges.

But wait, there’s more! (Sorry.)

Money and work are also on the laundry list of stressors for Zoomers. APA’s research also discovered more than 81% of their Gen-Z participants reported money as a source of significant stress. “Work” comes in at a close second at 77%. What’s causing this? With an uncertain job market and an unclear financial future, it’s no wonder why Gen Z’s stress levels are through the roof.

Gen Z’s social media habits are making them anxious, too

APA’s 2018 survey revealed that during a span of one month, 91% of Gen Z respondents reported at least one physical or emotional symptom due to stress.

Social media compounds it all. While there are many benefits to social media, it’s a double-edged sword because it can create pressure, insecurity and judgement.

It’s no surprise Zoomers feel pressure to have a picture-perfect image and life. From the often inspiring, but seemingly unattainable #ThatGirl trend on TikTok — to comparing college acceptance with their peers, members of Gen Z are expected to have it all together and constantly improve and want more for themselves.

gen z stress infographic

If some Zoomers are called ‘dramatic’ for being upset for missing milestones like prom, graduation, and on-campus activities, does this stop them from talking about mental health because their concerns are not being taken seriously? Thankfully, no. Gen Z is likelier to report poor mental health and seek professional help than previous generations. Even with everything Gen Z has had to grow up with, they’re emerging as mental health awareness and activism champions.

4 Ways Stress Impacts Gen Z Behavior

It’s no surprise that all that stress affects Gen Z’s behavior, including buying decisions. Brands that want to connect with them will need a deeper understanding of those changes. Let’s discuss the top four:

Gen Z has a shorter attention span

According to Media Kix, nearly half of Gen Z reports being connected online for ten or more hours a day. All that screen time has created a new multitasking culture.

While past generations may have focused solely on one thing at a time, Gen Z may be doing at least two things at once. Media and entertainment can serve as forms of escapist distractions from stress, and if there was ever a generation in need of an escape, it’s Gen Z.

Self-care is non-negotiable

As Gen Z normalizes conversations around mental health, they’re also prioritizing self-care. From their choices at the grocery store to where they invest their money, health and well-being are top of mind for Zoomers.

Gen Z’s nostalgia can function as an escape hatch

Who hasn’t yearned for what they perceive as a simpler time? In the chaos of 2020 to the present day, Gen Z’s nostalgia functions as a kind of escapism from their daily lives.

If your Instagram is feeling a little more like MySpace lately, thank a Zoomer. From Y2K fashion aesthetics to a renewed fascination with Bennifer, Gen Z likes to party like it’s 1999.

Creative outlets are gaining momentum

Even in the age of the internet, some Zoomers are turning to creative outlets like drawing, baking, and sewing. Like 90’s nostalgia, these activities are a form of escapism and can help combat stress.

All of that creativity serves a purpose: stress reduction. Research bears this out — in a 2016 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology researchers found that when participants spent more time pursuing a creative outlet, they were more likely to report a higher positive affect the following day.

Other research suggests that spending just 45 minutes on creative self-expression can reduce the amount of cortisol (sometimes called “the stress hormone”) in saliva. Is it any wonder, then, that Gen Z has been dubbed “Generation Create” by Adobe?

How brands can engage Gen Z — without stressing them out

While Gen Z is more likely to seek help with mental health than other generations, brands can still help Zoomers alleviate their stress. It’s important to do what we can to support one another.

Advocate for mental health (and mean it)

This one may be a no-brainer, but helping Gen Z deal with the stress starts with advocating for their mental and physical health. How can you do this? Well, thankfully, there are many ways!

Let’s start with authentically supporting mental health in your marketing. Remember that authenticity is a top priority for Zoomers, so if your brand isn’t a genuine advocate for mental health, they will probably smell this from a mile away.

You can also support mental health by donating proceeds, money, and time to relevant charities or nonprofit organizations. An example of one is the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI). They’re all about educating, advocating, and helping to improve the lives of all people with mental health.

Skincare line Bubble is killing it when it comes to authentically supporting mental health. They are making a difference by donating 1% of their proceeds to multiple organizations that provide emotional support to teens and young adults.

Another option to support Zoomers’ mental health is actively participating in events or movements that help destigmatize mental health. This can be by sharing on social media during World Mental Health Day (October 10th) or participating in NAMI’s 5K walk program, NAMIWalks Your Way.

Make conscientious & inclusive marketing choices

Just as all actions have consequences, the content choices you make impacts Gen Z’s perception of your brand. As the most diverse generation, Gen Z expects to see diversity and inclusion in marketing. Say goodbye to the perfectly curated Instagram feed or unoriginal marketing campaigns. Most Zoomers aren’t interested in seeing this. When your campaigns, content, and design assets make Gen Z feel valued and avoid exacerbating existing mental health issues, you ensure a positive perception.

If your marketing is also conscientious and inclusive, even better. Make sure your products or services are available for everyone. Discover ways to celebrate diversity in your content, like choosing a variety of models from different backgrounds, genders, races, ages, etc. By implementing inclusive and conscientious decisions, you’re celebrating Zoomers and not adding more content that could cause stress due to the lack of inclusion.

Fenty Beauty continues to shake up the beauty world by prioritizing inclusion and diversity. The makeup line includes “a wide range of traditionally hard-to-match skin tones, creating formulas that work for all skin types, and pinpointing universal shades.” Zoomers are a fan. Plus, their marketing campaigns are as diverse as they come, resonating positively with Zoomers.

Understanding how Gen Z’s stressors impact their mental health should be a marketer’s top priority. So why not go straight to the source? Knit connects brands to crucial insights with a network of over 60,000 Gen Z consumers. Get in touch today and better understand what makes Zoomers tick.

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