Existential crises used to be the right of passage for the middle-aged.
But the crisis of hope is emerging increasingly among Gen Z teens – and it’s so widespread that a new term for it has emerged – Gen Z Dread.
Gen Z teens told us their Gen Z Dread is born from constant anxiety about the future: a combination of not knowing what they want to do after school, and concerns about job prospects, housing affordability, the rising cost of living, and the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
And with one in three young people not knowing what they want to do with their future according to our latest research, as many as one in three young people could be dealing with Gen Z Dread.
“I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do with my life,” a 19-year-old female from Queensland told us.
“The depression worsened and frankly, I wasn’t sure if I could see a future for myself
“I felt like everyone in the world could do anything they wanted, anything at all; all but me. I’ve changed my university course more than five times and my majors even more than that.”
Our Gen Z wellbeing research found fatigue/energy levels are troubling 60% of youth, followed by burnout (54%), loneliness (48%), a mental health condition (39%), education (38%), money (38%) and sleep (38%). As can be seen from these results, there are a multitude of factors why any young person could be experiencing dread in their life at any one time.
And when we zoom out from personal issues to greater society’s issues, climate change is another extra layer young people are contending with.
“I am thinking about my future, the future of my planet and studying conservation, but I feel like it’s going to be too late to save our planet at the rate we are going. My degree feels redundant,” a 19-year-old female from Victoria said.
“I’m worried about that, however on the side I spend my time planting trees and volunteering. So on the big scale I have so many worries, but when I think about my own health and well-being I’m kicking goals.”
Meanwhile, a 16-year-old female from Victoria who’s still in school had some advice for young people struggling with Gen Z Dread.
“I’m thinking. Constantly. All the time. About where I wanna be, what I wanna do to get there, what makes me happy,” she said.
“(But the thing is), I’m only 16 – I have one and a half years of high school left and I can’t do what I wanna do yet. So for the moment (I’m reminding myself that) I just have to be a 16-year-old girl who dances around her room to her favourite Spotify playlist, who makes milo milks as soon as she gets home for school, who smiles every time her crush walks past. I just have to live in the moment and appreciate what I have.
“And that’s what I am doing. That’s what I am doing to be the person I wanna be. That’s what I’m doing that’s gonna help me have a successful future.”