Covid-19 and lockdowns has made Gen Z's more stressed

16 October 2020 5 min. read
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Being stuck at home watching an economic crisis unfold has been stressful for most of us, but Gen Z across Asia Pacific appears to be having a particularly tough time. This is according to a new report from communications advisory firm Sandpiper. 

The Hong-Kong-based consultancy surveyed more than 1,200 people between the ages of 18 and 24 across Australia, China, Hong Kong and Singapore – to get an idea of how the youth is faring amid a global pandemic. The surveys were conducted in September, and show that Gen Z is still grappling with the mental strain of it all.

Nearly 60% of Gen Z in APAC report a decline in mental health since the crisis began. Stress appears to be the biggest factor here – around 75% have been dealing with elevated stress levels this year, while short of 80% get overwhelmed with stress at least once a month. Of the rest, more than 10% feel overwhelmed on a daily basis.

Causes of stress

For a generation of youngsters at the cusp of professional life, the state of the economy is the biggest reason for mental strain. Jobs have all but dried up since the start of this year, while few have any clarity on how and when the global economy will shape up in the near future. The uncertainty is enough to keep the youth on edge, with more than 70% citing the economic circumstances as the biggest strain on mental health.

“Our young people are among those who have been the most impacted by COVID-19, and they will need to live with the huge social and economic impacts for many years to come during the prime of their lives and careers,” said Emma Smith, CEO at Sandpiper.

Short of half feel that career pressure is what brings their stress up to overwhelming levels, although being cooped up with the family is only making matters worse. In fact, nearly two-thirds have cited family pressure as their chief source of overwhelming stress. Add to this the fact that the usual outlets for stress have disappeared under lockdown.

Heralded as a truly socially-minded, borderless generation, Gen Z in many countries now finds themselves forbidden from even visiting a friend in the neighbourhood. For many, this is affecting their relationship with friends – a key component in the support system at a tough time.

Economic and lifestyle impacts

Then there is a lack of travel opportunities. So popular is international travel among the APAC population that the region is positioned as a potential driver of global aviation growth over the next two decades. No doubt, the current circumstances have thrown a spanner in these works, and Gen Z is despairing.

Almost 70% positioned travel bans as a negative influence on their mental health. Remarkably, this is more of a concern than the health of their family, friends or even their own wellbeing in the midst of a global pandemic. In short, Gen Z is missing excitement from their life, a void that even social media has failed to cover.

Naturally, social activity moved to digital platforms under lockdown. All of a sudden, online chat rooms and video conferencing became the only way to connect with and communicate with friends. While the majority reported no difference in the role of social media in their life, a quarter of Sandpiper’s respondents were grateful for a means to connect during lockdown. For them, social media has had a positive impact on mental health.

The Social Dilemma

On the other hand, an even larger number revealed that social media had negatively affected their mental condition. For one, the sheer volume of negative news stories flooding the timeline this year has been far from easy to take in. Most report this as the biggest issue with social media. For others, connecting with friends on online platforms merely serves as a reminder that meeting is person isn’t possible – leaving them with a lack of real connection.

Lastly, the lockdown notably sparked a drive for betterment among people. Social media was flooded with stories of people picking up a new hobby – cooking, baking – or resuming an old one. “Do-it-yourself” became a trend born partly out of necessity and partly out of fashion. Gen Z had a mixed response to these trends.

Some were spurred into action, making an effort to better themselves. Others only got more stressed out by seeing all the activity on their feed, experiencing a constant pressure to stay busy. This also placed among the chief negatives of social media, for those who have struggled with it during the crisis.

Talking about mental health

On the whole, the crisis has been tough on Gen Z. According to Sandpiper, what is worrying is that only around 40% of this generation is willing to talk about their mental struggles, with the majority choosing to put on a brave face.

“It is concerning that despite Gen Zs suffering increased mental health and wellbeing pressures during COVID-19, they still struggle to talk about these issues. While the increasing focus on betterment can be seen as a positive outtake from Covid-19, there’s also a risk that without strong communications, openness and transparency around mental wellbeing, it may mask deeper issues,” explained Smith.