You don’t have to go far too see how unfairly maligned the millennial generation really is. Words like entitled, weak, and foolish seem to crop up more often than not. But is this actually reflective of the millennial generation?
The elephant in the room for generations prior to the millennial is the topic of mental health, but now, the millennial generation has embraced discussing mental health disorders wholeheartedly. There has been a fantastic leap in solving these problems, but it seems that millennials are more prone to mental health disorders than any generation prior. Why is this? Is it merely a case of weakness on their part, or does it go far deeper than this?
The Social Pressures
The first big target to hit is social media. Of course, it’s not uncommon for anyone to have a social media account now, but if you look at the social stance of the social media account from the perspective of a millennial, in comparison to a baby boomer, there are significant differences. Firstly, the social media cache that every millennial has is that it is the only means of contact with the vast majority of their friends. The disparity in the concept of friendship from the perspective of a baby boomer and millennial shows up some very significant points.
Every generation prior to the millennial didn’t use the internet as its sole means of communication; now, it is as essential as air. The generations that have grown up with the internet haven’t had the opportunity to make the most of life without technology. Now, as soon as a baby is born, they are thrust into a world of blue screens, social media accounts, and placated with Netflix and YouTube while the parents complete the housework. Generations before had the television, which is, in some ways, comparable to the internet, but now, the 24/7 access to technology, as well as the significant findings of the detrimental effects of the internet on children, shows that the internet is a crutch, not just in an entertainment sense, but in a ‘distraction from life’ sense.
Loneliness is a very common mental health disorder in millennials. The Journal of Psychological Medicine published a study where 7 per cent of participants stated that they had feelings of loneliness ‘often’, and up to 31 per cent said that they felt left out in the past. These people are also more likely to be unemployed. While unemployment throws up a cornucopia of problems in an economic sense, the feeling of loneliness is something that is further exacerbated when you throw into the mix common anxiety disorders relating to excessive social media use. FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is one such problem that is spoken about all too regularly. The feeling of being left out is something we’ve all felt as children, but now, the ability to provide an edited highlight of your life on social media, is making this situation an extreme epidemic.
As a result, children are finding more ways to get that dopamine hit and make themselves feel better, and excessive internet use is compounding the situation. And the more we go on the internet, the more we see this image of perfectionism, which is the biggest destroyer of mental health in millennials. Expectation, not just online, but now with extreme academic pressures to do well, or you are branded a failure in the world, is commonplace in every aspect of a child’s life. Children are now appearing to grow up quicker than previous generations; technology is the root cause of this. Children are being exposed to more adult situations than ever before, and as a result, they are developing at a faster rate. While this is the polar opposite of arrested development, the weight of adult-like pressures and expectations is weighing heavy on them at such a young age, which results in depression and anxiety, which can transform into disorders later on in life.
The Economic Pressures
Looking at the millennial generation from both ends of the scale, the oldest millennials were born in 1980, and the youngest are generally classed as being born in the mid-1990s or early 2000s. Looking at the economic climate from the early 2000s, the cost of houses skyrocketed, the buy-to-let generation came and went, and the idea of buying a house was deemed irrelevant to the millennial generation. The obvious solution? Rent a property and enjoy a disposable income. As a result, this highlights the difference in perspective from the older millennial to the younger. The older millennial faced pressures from their parents, the baby boomer generation, who feel that renting a property is wasting money, when in fact, the more sensible financial option, especially to get the most out of life, is to rent a property in a city centre. As a result, millennials reap the benefits of a disposable income, and a better social life. However, that better social life can open the door to considerable substance abuse.
Disposable income, combined with the accessibility of cheap drugs and alcohol, means that they have access to various substances at little cost. And while we can look at the widespread cost of drug addiction in countries all over the world, in Britain specifically, the epidemic of legal highs being as dangerous as real ones, as well as the impurities of drugs like cocaine, has led to an increase in hospitalization and death. Because of a disposable income combined with less financial responsibility, those millennials who end up in a good job when they are fresh out of university can find themselves burning a hole in their pocket due to substance abuse. There is additional info here on the effects of party drugs like cocaine, but as the economic pressures bear down upon millennials, combined with a seemingly expendable income, the choice to go and party is an obvious one for many.
The other side of the coin, millennials who are sensible and save their money, were found to be struggling under the costs of keeping a roof over their head. There are many cases across Britain of those who took it upon themselves to buy a home as soon as they left university, and worked hard to make it a proper investment, but those people have been regretful of their choice. Scrimping and saving and being financially unhappy for years so they can own their own property took the shine off life. So many felt that the pride of owning their own home would outshine any person that belonged to Generation Rent. However, with Brexit on the horizon and the cost of houses increasing, it seems like a particularly foolish time to invest.
There are people who rented for years and found a snag in the market after the financial crisis of 2008 and reaped the benefits. But for those people who have viewed owning their own home as a badge of honour, it has been far from the case. And now, being part of Generation Rent is more about making a concerted financial choice, so you can enjoy life. Those people who have worked every hour they can to make their home perfect and liveable found themselves struggling under financial pressures, but didn’t have much of a home to show for it in the end.
So Why So Sad?
Combining these social and economic pressures, the millennial generation is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The stiff upper lip, conservative (with a small ‘c’) views of the generation before them, and those of the younger millennials born after 2000 who have a better idea of how to focus on their own happiness, has meant that the vast majority of millennials are trapped between the past and the future. Wanting to do right by their parents, but facing the pressures from baby boomers that don’t comprehend nor empathize with their problems has caused a major generational divide. The mental health of millennials, due to financial problems that they will never be able to solve, excessive access to information that doesn’t provide a solution, but also a feeling of helplessness, combined with the floor moving beneath them, has resulted in chaos and confusion.
The concept of happiness in the modern world seems to be a fleeting one. Mental health disorders are on the increase in the millennial generation, addiction is creeping up slowly, and a feeling of hopelessness and isolation behind the computer screens causes anxiety and depression. What is the solution?
The landscape we are in provides more help than before, but the lifestyle of the millennial generation, on paper, appears to show no way out. Conforming to the ideologies of the past is not an option, as it is the equivalent of putting a square peg in a round hole. And this can cause additional confusion in the generational divide. It seems that now, as the baby boomers get older and approach retirement, their happiness statistically increases. Those that are in their 40s do thoroughly empathise. And it’s this change in perception that we, unfortunately, have to wait for.
The chasm that exists between the millennial generation and the baby boomers before them means that millennials feel isolated, but have more perks on the face of it. This is partly due to the amount of choice in the modern world, but as millennials age, they realise that this apparent choice is very limited. It’s hardly a surprise then that mental health is such a hot topic right now and for the foreseeable future.