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YSI Gen Z Index 2002 Reveals Stark Mental Health Concerns Amongst Young People

Anxiety & Depression looms large for 68% of Ireland’s Young People

Key research findings include:

The YSI Gen Z Index conducted in partnership with Amárach Research has revealed that 68% of Gen Z say depression and anxiety are the biggest issues facing young people living in Ireland today. The study revealed that a third (32%) of Gen Z describe the mood of their generation as ‘anxious’ – which represents a 113% increase since the same question was posed in a similar 2019 study.

The nationally representative research of 1,050 Gen Z respondents was undertaken to understand the key issues Ireland’s young people are facing today, as well as their hopes and fears for the next 20 years, and coincides with the 20th anniversary of YSI in Ireland.



Mental health

Mental health concerns ranked as the biggest issue facing young people living in Ireland today, with ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety’ being the most frequently cited for 68% of respondents. This was followed by 59% expressing ‘fear and worry for the future’, while more than half (56%) cited ‘mental stress relating to school work and exam stress’. 40% reported worries about Ireland’s housing crisis, while Covid 19 was negatively impacting 38% and loneliness affecting 27%. On a slightly more positive note, issues related to drug and alcohol abuse, and cyber bullying both saw lower scores compared to the 2019 study, with concern over drug and alcohol issues dropping from 48% in 2019 to 33% at the end of 2021, while cyber bullying concerns dropped 50% in the same time period.

The mood of a generation

On the topic of the overall mood of their generation, second to the high levels of anxiety reported, 26% stated they are stressed, and 21% felt their generation is depressed. Conversely, some of the more positive mood states scored low with only 7% saying they feel motivated and 5% saying they are feeling enthusiastic – which represent declines of 36% and 69% respectively since the same question was asked in a similar 2019 survey.

Providing analysis of the current mood and mindset of Generation Z, Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytical Psychotherapist, Dr Colman Noctor said “The findings in this research are disappointing without being surprising. The most startling statistic is that 1 in 3 young people in Ireland describe the mood of the generation as anxious. And, while this is not a surprise given the last two years, it is a worrying finding when we consider the future.

Young people in Ireland have spent more of their lives in unprecedented times than precedented times over the last number of years and this is reflected in the findings. The Irish youth population has identified employment and finances as worries for their future which is unsurprising given the impact of the pandemic on so many industries. This must only be added to by the recent discussions about the rising costs of living and the supply issues that are contributing to these, with no clear end in sight. The findings in this research are disappointing without being surprising. The most startling statistic is that 1 in 3 young people in Ireland describe the mood of the generation as anxious. And, while this is not a surprise given the last two years, it is a worrying finding when we consider the future. “Young people in Ireland have spent more of their lives in unprecedented times than precedented times over the last number of years and this is reflected in the findings. The Irish youth population has identified employment and finances as worries for their future which is unsurprising given the impact of the pandemic on so many industries. This must only be added to by the recent discussions about the rising costs of living and the supply issues that are contributing to these, with no clear end in sight. “The findings of this study confirm the worry that young people have become accustomed to crises and are braced for the next disaster. Between global pandemics, climate crises and global conflicts, they have witnessed three 'one in 100-year events' in the space of just two years. The research findings highlight how we need to invest in giving our young people a sense of hope for the future, not fear of it and provide them with a voice that can be heard and listened to, as this research suggests a degree of powerlessness in this generation in terms of being agents of change.”

Dr Colman Noctor, Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytical Psychotherapist

Future outlook

When asked what the greatest sign of a successful future life would be for them, 30% of respondents cited ‘financial security’, a statistic that appears closely related to their greatest fear for 20 years’ time, which for 79% of respondents was ‘unaffordable cost of living’.

Probing further into the topic of 20 years in the future, 44% are worried about inequality, 41% about poverty and hunger, 38% about war and violence, and 33% about global food shortages. Just over a quarter (26%) are worried about the possibility of another pandemic, and 18% fear the potential for technology to replace people, while 28% are concerned about social unrest and losing control of their personal data. But, next to unaffordable living, by far the largest area of concern for the future is climate change, with 78% citing that as their number one worry.

Needless to say, the findings of this study make for very worrying reading. As digital natives, Generation Z has access to more information than ever, but the flip side of this reality is that they are consistently exposed to a barrage of stress and anxiety inducing issues that are having a profoundly negative effect on their mental well-being. “It is also worth noting that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected the mindset of this generation. In April 2020, our research found that 37% of Gen Zs felt calm, motivated and enthusiastic about their day-to-day lives. Today, these figures are dramatically lower with just 7% of Gen Zs feeling motivated, and only 5% feeling enthusiastic. This is a significant fall in the mindset of the generation, and we simply must find ways to respond to this issue. At YSI, we understand the powerful impact of engaging young people in considering and developing solutions around the social issues that concern them. Recent research coordinated by Irish Research Scholar, Andrea Maynard, evidences the fact that engaging young people in social innovation activates youth voice and provides ways to increase their experience of wellbeing. Empowering and engaging the young people of Ireland and giving them a platform to have a strong voice on the issues directly impacting them is no longer a nice to have. It is our duty to this generation. This is what YSI does and we would like to see social innovation as an option for all young people. With the right support and programmes like YSI we are confident that Gen Z can face many of the issues highlighted in the research and set themselves up for a bright future

Rachel Collier, Young Social Innovators Co-founder and CEO