Study: 54% of Gen Z-ers with anxiety say it’s been worse in 2023

Picture: Supplied

Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 24, 2023


Johannesburg - The top diagnosed mental health condition among Gen Z is anxiety, a new report has found.

The research, conducted by Harmony Healthcare IT, a health data management firm, surveyed Gen Z-ers who struggle with anxiety about how it impacts their lives.

It found that more than one in two struggle with anxiety daily, with one in three taking anxiety medication to try and find relief.

The Harmony Healthcare IT research, titled “Gen Z State of Mental Health Report”, also found that many Gen Z-ers are turning to other drugs or alcohol to cope.

The research was conducted in September 2023, with 997 Gen Z-ers who deal with anxiety surveyed and asked them how it impacts their lives. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 26 with an average age of 23. 47% were women, 47% men, and 6% non-binary.

Picture: Supplied

Top five causes of anxiety for Gen Z

The Harmony Healthcare IT research discovered that more than half (54%) of Gen Z say their anxiety has been worse in 2023.

“The most common cause of anxiety among them is the future and nearly half of Gen Z said this was their biggest apprehension,” researchers explained.

They added that another major concern is cash, with 45% anxious about finances. Other top anxieties include work, social activities, and relationships.

“Even though so many deal with it, anxiety can be isolating and early half of Gen Z do not feel like others are empathetic to their anxiety,” the researchers said.

They added that there are certain people that the generation feels are especially uncaring when it comes to their mental health. More than one in three (36%) do not feel like their parents are sympathetic to their mental health struggles. But co-workers or bosses (34%) and extended family (30%) are not far behind.

How Gen Z copes with anxiety

A lot of Gen Z turn to food to try to handle anxiety, the research found, and more than two in five eat unhealthy food and 30% binge eat while trying to cope with their anxiousness.

Meanwhile, about one in three of the surveyed Gen Z-ers said that they resort to substances such as marijuana, edibles, and vapes as well as alcohol.

It’s also clear Gen Z-ers have a complicated relationship with their phones, the researchers added as nearly two in five (37%) feel their phone interferes with daily activities, work, and relationships.

“However, 54% admitted to excessively using social media or doom scrolling while trying to deal with anxiety,” the researchers said.

“A whopping 96% of Gen Z use social media, mainly using sites like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, and Snapchat.”

In addition, nearly three in four (74%) get anxious making calls or talking on the phone, and yet 91% of Gen Z sleep with their phone within arm’s reach.

“Nearly three in five (57%) feel panic when their phone battery is running low or the internet isn’t working, and 22% have reported feeling increased heart rates, sweating, and restlessness in situations when they can’t use their phone.”

Gen Z anxiety around the holidays

The holidays often make anxiety worse, the researchers explained, and added that more than half (53%) of Gen Z find this season worsens their anxiety.

Some key reasons for holiday stress include:

– financial pressures

– social gatherings and parties

– family gatherings.

They explained that the increased pressure and anxiety around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are leading to some additional bad health habits.

“More than two in five (43%) Gen Z admitted they eat more during the holidays because of anxiety and 23% drink more.”

Positive coping mechanisms for anxiety

The Harmony Healthcare IT research found that nearly one in three Gen Z with anxiety are using medication to help them manage their mental health.

“On average, Gen Z-ers with anxiety started taking medication at 19-years-old, and of those who take anxiety medication, 83% take it daily,” the researchers said.

“Besides medication, many have go-to coping mechanisms to try and improve their anxious thoughts.”

The research found that nearly half (48%) go on walks or hikes while others try to stimulate their brain by turning to creative activities such as painting, writing, or playing a musical instrument.

Meanwhile, two in five of the Gen Z respondents said that they go to therapy.

“In fact, statistics show 53% have gotten professional help for their mental health, and 18% are considering it,” the researchers said.

The Saturday Star