Millennials diagnosed with anxiety more than any other generation, according to recent data

More than half of Millennials polled in a recent study felt overwhelming anxiety in the last year.
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Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 3:54 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - While many older Americans might have had the luxury of living in a time where the phrase ‘this too shall pass’ was realistic, the Millennial generation has come of age in a world where the future often looks uncertain and frightening.

More than half of the Millennials polled in a recent study felt overwhelming anxiety in the last year. The study also indicated that 17% of young adults questioned were reportedly diagnosed with, or have been treated for anxiety, a number that is 66% higher than it was in 2008.

That’s understandable due to the impact of COVID-19 over the last year, but generally speaking, transitioning from adolescence into adulthood can cause anxiety due to the unknown. Director of Clinical Services at Gulfport Memorial Behavioral Angela Fields said it could be due to a lot of pressure for young people to figure out what they want to do.

“There’s a lot of transitions to be made in those age ranges,” said Fields. “Getting into adolescence is stressful. Then we’re going into adolescence, into young adulthood, there’s a lot of change and unknowns. I think there’s a lot of push for young people to know what they want to do and to kinda get on with it and I think they need more support than we realize.”

Sometimes the pressure can come from parents or from the young adults themselves trying to live up to their high school high points.

“What we are in high school, we’re leaving our relative experience. I kinda use the metaphor of a box, you know and everything with that box. We take them with us. We might’ve been the big fish in the little pond, star athlete, everyone knows us. Then we go to being a little fish in a huge lake. It’s going to impact how we feel about ourselves and how we perform. It starts early on as parents to instill confidence as much as we can, and not putting a huge amount of pressure on them, and honestly letting them stumble and struggle.”

A graph from the American Psychological Association shows that Millennials were diagnosed with depression and anxiety at a higher percentage than any previous generation. Surprisingly, Fields said anxiety and depression can actually be an inherited trait.

More than half of undergraduate students polled in this study felt overwhelming anxiety in the...
More than half of undergraduate students polled in this study felt overwhelming anxiety in the last year. Additionally, 17% of undergraduates were reportedly diagnosed with, or have been treated, a number that is 66% higher than it was in 2008.(American Psychological Association)

“You can have family genetics where the extended family had anxiety or depression, and you don’t experience circumstantial life factors that cause stress, and you will develop anxiety and depression just because of the DNA you inherited,” said Fields.

Anxiety and depression aren’t easily detected, but there are warning signs parents can look out for.

“Change in sleep pattern, changes in routines. Are they remaining social? Are they on social media or with friends?” said Fields. ”Just noticing their patterns. Mood is something that we don’t always recognize depending on how much time we’re spending, but we need to notice some of those warning signs. Do they ever smile, or do they stay active? Do they always look down?”

And as far as self-medicating among young adults, it’s something that’s commonly used to cope with symptoms.

“A lot of people will self medicate with alcohol and drugs as a way to manage those symptoms. What will happen is someone will use alcohol. It’s a depressant so it’s going to make depression worse in the long run,” said Fields. “There are other medications that people might abuse like opioids, pain killers, benzodiazepines that build up a tolerance and you can develop a physical addiction to those even though they temporarily relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety.”

Fields said marijuana is a common illicit substance that youth have always used to deal with anxiety. It’s a hallucinogen, so she says if you have a predisposition to a mental health problem, like schizophrenia, it may cause some psychosis.

And moving off to college? It’s just another added stressor Fields said.

“It’s a big stressor. Part of it is freedom. The transition of being at home, and now going to college. Maybe you don’t have the skill sets to manage freedom, and expectations. It really starts in high school in 11th grade. The more you have to adjust to different things at the same time, the harder it is to do that. It’s the pressure to become something, or someone. The pressure to decide what you want to do. You have to keep up grades in order to keep a scholarship, and whatever personality style that we have, and you have added pressure on yourself, you might not be able to cope with the amount of pressure.”

If you’d like to learn more about anxiety and depression, click here to learn more from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America.

If you’re dealing with anxiety, depression or substance, please contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s helpline or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

We’ve complied a Mental Health Resource page on listing South Mississippi businesses and organizations that can offer help on a variety of mental health topics, including anxiety and depression.

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