Generation Z says gun violence, racism, climate change affecting mental health

Large-scale sociopolitical issues are causing negative mental health effects on the country’s younger population.

That’s according to a new survey from Blue Shield of California and Harris Poll, which shows that nearly nine out of 10 people in Generation Z, or people aged 14 to 25, are struggling with mental health on a regular basis.

Gun violence ranks as the top concern, as 84% said they experience negative mental health impacts and 69% responded they are “very concerned.” Sixty-eight percent of people said hearing about or experiencing climate change also caused mental health issues.

More than half of respondents (54%) said they are very concerned about racism and social injustice. Almost one-third (32%) of youth of color indicated dealing with racism was impacting their mental health.

Despite the widespread mental health struggles, 78% of people said they try to take action to improve well-being including talk about emotions with others, while 71% said they use resources. Out of respondents that had heard of the 988 crisis hotline, 46% of people have used it. That number rises to 54% for youth of color.

"There is a crowded field of voices weighing in on Gen Z's mental health challenges, but the most important voices are youth themselves," said David Bond, a licensed clinical social worker and director of behavioral health for Blue Shield of California, in a statement. "For youth who are struggling, I cannot stress enough the importance of feeling seen, understood, and that someone cares about you."

"Parents, educators, clinicians, and policymakers need to listen to young people with empathy and respond with meaningful action."

Some young people are choosing to address the problems head-on. Nearly 2 in 3 (65%) of youth are attempting to learn more about racism, advocate against bullying and shop from brands that support social justice.

And, 74% of people are choosing to reduce plastic, power and water use to live a more sustainable life.

Female, trans and non-binary youth seem to be having more struggles than young men, according to the survey. It found that 42% of non-binary people rate their overall mental health as poor, and 70% believe family relationships are disrupting their daily life. About half of trans people (49%) and women (45%) also said they worry about family relationships on a daily basis.

Negative body image concerns impact all people, although only 23% of men reported feeling that it disrupts their daily life. Fifty-five percent of women have negative body image concerns, while that number jumps to 84% for trans people and 78% for non-binary individuals.

However, 61% say they have “experienced obstacles” in receiving or trying to receive professional mental health care.

The survey (PDF) polled more than 1,300 people from Gen Z.