Mental Health

Gen Z is Depressed and Managers Need to Know

The world has become more unpredictable since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. Workplaces and work processes have been disrupted and more and more people are struggling with mental health issues.

A study by the OECD found that from March 2020, when the pandemic first began, the prevalence of anxiety and depression increased and in some OECD-member countries even doubled. The OECD found that in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, the prevalence of depression in early 2020 was also double or more than double than observed in the years before.

In the Asia Pacific region, Sandpiper Communications surveyed 1,226 Gen Zs (those aged 18 to 24 years) across Australia, China, Hong Kong and Singapore and found that more than 7 in 10 Gen-Z adults in the Asia Pacific were experiencing symptoms of depression such as feeling tired and lethargic, having trouble thinking and concentrating and feeling restless, lonely, miserable or unhappy.

Here's why this matters: Naluri's data confirms that while people of all ages have been detrimentally affected by the pandemic, Gen Zs are most at risk. 

Malaysia’s Generation Z is unwell 

In 2021, on the back of the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, Naluri conducted a regional assessment, the largest of its kind, to determine the mental health impact on the population in Southeast Asia. A total of 10,330 respondents in Malaysia, ranging from 18 to 65 years of age, were surveyed.

The results of the survey unearthed a troubling insight: the most depressed respondents were the Gen Zs. What is perhaps unsurprising, Gen Zs also reported being most affected by anxiety and stress. 

“I think when it comes to Gen Zs, feeling anxious and depressed in this climate is quite common, and I am not surprised about Naluri’s findings, because there is just so much out of everyone's control," says Kristina Teow, Naluri's People Manager.

Why are Gen Zs most affected?

For starters, let's consider age. As mentioned, Gen Zs are the generation born after 1997, but for the purposes of this article, only working-age individuals were considered. By virtue of their age,Gen Zs have less life experience than their older colleagues and in turn, have had less time to develop coping or resilience skills that can only come with experience. As a consequence, they may be more impacted by devastating unforeseen events such as the global pandemic as well as the drastic or disruptive mandated measures that had to be taken to slow the spread of the virus. 

Adding to the impact on mental health is earning capacity. Gen Zs, again by virtue of their age, are typically just embarking on their careers and as such are most likely in low-paying entry-level positions in any organisation. Naluri's data, consistent with earlier studies, concludes that lower-income earners are more at risk. Social causation hypothesis posits that low income can precipitate mental illness by causing adversity, stress, and a reduced capacity to cope. However, social support may moderate the relationship between economic hardship and mental health when such support is available. 

What managers can do 

What GenZ employees need, therefore, is not criticism, but support.

“Many employees, especially young employees, join work and they think that they have to be on 24/7, they think that work means ‘I sacrifice my life’ and this includes sacrificing social life, sleep, rest and boundaries, all elements that impact mental well-being.” Teow explains. 

Teow also says there's also external pressure on the generation that has never known life without social media.

n Instagram and LinkedIn, everything is so focused on what a person has achieved, or what a person has been certified on, or what new badges they are receiving. Every week you will find posts about: ‘I achieved this, I got this job, I got that job’, [which adds to the pressure].” 

Considering how much time is dedicated to working and the workplace, Teow says managers are in a position to offer more of the social support necessary for Gen Zs. For example, resilience, the ability to bounce back from adverse events, can be trained and the skill can be built up to ensure that unfortunate circumstances don't result in an individual spiraling into despair. 

To find out more about resilience training for you and your team, reach out to Naluri

Support, not criticism, goes a long way. “Managers who receive feedback or are having conversations about depression with  Gen Z employees should embrace it.”

“Just start by acknowledging these challenges and then see what support you as a manager can provide. It could be as simple as providing a safe space to discuss mental health and well-being. "

Going further, consider: Do your employees need more flexible work options? Do they need a better way of communicating? Are you providing your team with the tools and resources they can learn from and thrive?

Whatever you do as a manager, don't shut down these important opportunities to communicate. Not only will listening effectively demonstrate support, but you will also play a role in destigmatising help-seeking and avoiding tragedy.  

"Imagine someone comes up to you and says ‘I’m depressed,’ and you just shut it down and say, ‘you know, back in my day, I worked harder than you. You have everything. Why are you feeling depressed?’ Don’t invalidate their experience; I think it's very important to be able to acknowledge it in the first place.” 

Naluri can help 

Where managers prefer to outsource expert care, Naluri's risk-stratified interventions will meet each employee on their terms. That's because not everyone needs the same level of attention. Oftentimes, people appreciate the option to learn and administer self-care for mental health first. Seeking help, therefore, need not always be traditional forms of therapy or one-on-one consultations. Support preferences are personal. Naluri offers text-based, voice-based, video-based and in-person consultations that range from casual check-ins to structured support.

If you or someone you know is struggling with your mental wellbeing, you are not alone. Reach out for support right here 

Click here to learn more about how Naluri is helping teams get healthier.

Written by:
Naluri Team
3 March 2022