Pandemic Stress Is Worsening Gen Z's Mental Health

American Psychological Association report shows half of Gen Z teens report the pandemic has made planning for their future impossible.
Posted at 3:22 PM, Nov 04, 2020

Lockdowns and social distancing may be good for public health, but research shows it's worsening depression for young adults. 

"We estimated he took 400 pills," said Tara Cole.

Cole says pandemic isolation contributed her 11-year-old son’s suicide attempt. 

"He said he didn't see that there is much worth looking for. So I think it was just too many things felt like it was stacked against him," she said.

The latest American Psychological Association report shows half of Gen Z teens ages 13 to 18 (51%) report the coronavirus pandemic has made planning for their future feel impossible.  More than two in three Gen Z adults in college (67%) say the coronavirus pandemic makes planning for their future feel impossible.

 "It's kind of shifted the entire the entire group up in a direction that we don't want them to go," said Dr. Parker Huston.

Huston, a pediatric psychologist with Nationwide Children's Hospital and clinical director for On Our Sleeves, told Newsy that the pressures of the pandemic are pushing everyone up a level. 

"People who are already at risk are already experiencing a mental health concern. They are at really high risk people who might not have been at as much risk or who were managing pretty well are now in the at risk category, if not experiencing some symptoms," Huston said.

Experts say the stressors can even be different among the younger and older Gen Z’ers — but whether it’s disappointment from missing a sport season to something related to college, a Gen Z’s identity and development can be affected.

"What they're developmentally supposed to be doing is heading out there, meeting new people, trying things for the first time and they're sort of paused in that and not able to do that," said Dr. Lynn Bufka, Director of Practice, Transformation and Quality, American Psychological Association. 

"January of this year. I was feeling myself like feeling good and everything, then COVID got here and then everything just kind of kind of fell apart. My mom got it. We had to wear masks in the house and I was checking up on her and it was really scary to think about what might happen," Scott Gramman, 16, told Newsy.

"I definitely went through depression and I had anxiety and I definitely have social anxiety. But I feel like all of that got better. And I feel like for the first time in so long, I'm actually able to find myself," Rachel Zellen, 17, told Newsy.

Psychologists say coping can differ by age, but for Gen Z this is where their social networking and technology savviness helps.  They add that regardless of age, anyone feeling stressed right now, should avoid catastrophizing. 

"Thinking that this is doomsday and then the end of the world is coming and we never going to get past this, that is going to make it much more difficult for you to manage your mental health and stress this particular time period," said Dr. Erlanger Turner, a psychologist and psychology professor at Pepperdine University.