My generation has grown up in a world of constant technological advancements, social media influence, and a what-so-peaceful one. Generation Z, also known as the iGeneration, is the demographic group following the Millennials. Born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s and with our unique upbringing, there has been a growing concern about the overall health of our generation, both mental and physical.
According to a study by the American Psychological Association, Gen Z is the most stressed generation, with 91% of us reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression (APA, 2023).
Similarly, various studies have shown that there are “declining health trends in recent generations” (Zheng, 2021), our generation showing increases in metabolic syndrome as the main culprit. This is a significant increase from previous generations, and it has raised concerns about the mental and physical well-being of my generation.
In the case of mental health, there are many different factors that influence the psychological health of Gen Z. One factor that may contribute to this is overprotective parenting. Our parents often try to shield us from the difficulties and challenges of the world, wanting to provide us with a happy and safe childhood.
While this may be well-intentioned, it can prevent us from developing coping mechanisms to deal with adversity. As a result, when we do face setbacks or challenges, we may be ill-equipped to handle them, leading to increased levels of depression and anxiety.
It is important for parents to strike a balance between protecting their children and allowing them to learn and grow from their experiences, no matter what generation they are from.
Few significant challenges
Moreover, we learn how to maintain a healthy mentality based on the lessons and consequences we have experienced in the past. For example, dealing with large amounts of anxiety can make us resilient and mentally stronger as we push ourselves and take risks. This problem could be attributed to the fact that most of our parents create an overly secure world around us, causing us to have a limited number of opportunities to take significant risks and face challenges.
As we are often provided with everything we need and wish due to the fruitful society we live in today, there may be limited chances for us to develop the mental strength necessary to overcome adversity. This lack of exposure to risk-taking experiences could potentially impact our ability to handle and manage mental health challenges effectively as did generations before us.
Despite this factor, there is a way to help one another. Peer support has been shown to be an effective way to combat mental health issues. We are a generation that values community and connection, and peer support can provide a safe and understanding space for us to share our struggles and form collective coping mechanisms.
Physical health problems
On the other hand, physical health is something that cannot be easily solved. Exposure to pollution and microplastics in the environment can have detrimental effects on the physical health of my generation and older Millennials (Coperchini et al, 2021). Studies have shown that these substances can disrupt our hormonal balance and contribute to problems with the thyroid that cause other issues such as cardiovascular disease, and infertility.
These hormonal imbalances can also influence our mental health as hormones strongly contribute to our moods and even motivations. For instance, among my peers, many of them have diagnosed thyroid problems, and allergies. This, contrasted with the previous generations, is a significant increase in physical health problems.
Diet and medication
A recent health study by Jindal Naturecure Institute found that despite 90% of Gen Z engaging in daily physical activities, 38% consume fast food at least twice a week. What is more, above 39% face mental health challenges such as anxiety, eating disorders, or depression.
Dr. Babina NM, Chief Medical Officer at Jindal Naturecure Institute, observed that individuals grappling with mental health disorders face a heightened risk of developing various chronic physical conditions such as disrupting hormonal balance and sleep patterns.
Furthermore, the medications prescribed for psychiatric conditions, such a depression, may contribute to side effects such as weight gain and an irregular heartbeat (Dineshwori , 2022). The daily choices we make in terms of food and drink significantly influence our overall health and well-being, encompassing both physical and mental aspects. Optimal nutrition, coupled with consistent exercise, plays a crucial role in sustaining a healthy weight and lowering the likelihood of chronic diseases (Dineshwori , 2022).
What can be done?
To support the physical health of my generation and address thyroid problems, several actions can be taken. Firstly, promoting a healthy and balanced diet is crucial.
Encouraging the consumption of fresh and organic foods, while reducing the intake of processed and fast foods, can help improve overall health and maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, raising awareness about the impact of pollution and microplastics on the thyroid and hormonal balance is essential.
This can be done through educational campaigns and initiatives that aim to reduce pollution and promote sustainable practices. Lastly, promoting an active lifestyle and regular exercise among our Gen Z can contribute to maintaining a healthy weight, reducing the risk of obesity, and improving overall physical health. By implementing these measures, we can support in maintaining our physical health and addressing thyroid problems.
While concerns about Gen Z’s fragility exist, the challenges we face in mental and physical health demand a holistic approach. Overprotective parenting may hinder our coping mechanisms, yet the power of peer support offers us a promising solution. Environmental factors impacting our physical health are formidable, but promoting a balanced diet, raising awareness about pollution, and advocating for an active lifestyle can pave the way for a hopefully healthier future.
As we navigate these challenges, finding a balance between protection and exposure to risk can foster resilience. Through collective efforts, awareness, and proactive measures, Gen Z has the potential to cultivate strength and resilience, shaping a narrative of empowerment for generations to come.
Leire Orella (DP2)