We’ve all heard it said: “Back in MY day, things were different. Young people today don’t understand the struggle.” And you
probably rolled your eyes and thought, “YOU are the one who doesn’t understand.” When I hear these things, I get all revved
up. Then, I’m told to “…let it go. They are from a different generation.” For many years, I abided by this social statute. Then I
realized something – we’ve all experienced “the struggle” in one way or another. My grandparents suffered, my parents
suffered, I’ve suffered, and my children will suffer. The struggle is inevitable. But there is one question that I’ve yet to answer,
and that question deals with mental health. Is anxiety worse today than it was in proceeding generations?
We All Feel It
Ten years ago, you didn’t hear people discussing mental health, anxiety or depression as often or with as much transparency as you do today. That’s not to say it didn’t exist, but it certainly was not a “hot topic” of conversation. Then, something miraculous and even a bit tragic happened – people started to share their fears with others. Suddenly, “anxiety” became something that we all have in common. The generational divide began to shrink as the baby boomers, genX, millennials, and genZ revealed that social, political and economic pressures have impacted themselves, or someone they know, in a significant way. But, is it worse today?
The Turning Point
No matter who you are or where you are from, on September 11, 2001 we all experienced a shift that would change our society and our world forever. I am a millennial, also known as “The 9/11 Generation”. Though I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when my anxiety became a looming issue, I know that it grew 3 sizes that day. But do you know what was really unsettling? From that point on, wherever I went, I could sense that everyone around me was changed as well. The fear, uncertainty, nervousness, tension, and hesitation that once made me feel isolated and “weird” was now one of the things that made us all the same. It did feel worse…it does feel worse. But is it?
Not Worse, Just Different
Here’s the damned truth, and you probably saw it coming…I cannot say with 100% certainty that anxiety today is worse than it was 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago. What I can say is that things are different. More Americans, and children in particular, are reporting that anxiety is an issue for them today than they were in the past. Due to our “broken” political and economic climate, almost 40% of Americans claim to be more anxious today than they were at this point last year. In fact, the state of our nation has become the #1 trigger of anxiety, even over work and finances. GenZ is tackling constantly rising expectations in school and the workplace, and our tech-obsessed culture has given the words “happiness” and “success” new meanings.
And as I grow older, I realize that the emotions I felt as a child – the nervousness, the anxiety, the tension, and the fear – have not disappeared or dissipated. They have simply changed and evolved with the times.
So now I ask you – in your opinion and experience – is anxiety worse today?