Gen Zers are an interesting mix of anticipation and angst. And their mental health challenges are different from those of previous generations, according to a report by Gallup and Walton Family Foundation that focuses on all things Gen Z.

Voices of Gen Z: Perspectives on U.S. Education, Wellbeing and the Future” finds that more than previous generations, Gen Z — generally considered to include those born between 1997 and 2012, making them ages 11 to 26 right now — struggle with mental and emotional health. In self-reports, 10% describe their mental health as “poor,” while another 26% say “only fair.” More than half say they were anxious just yesterday, compared to between 25% and 44% of those who are older, depending on their generation.

“How Gen Z feels on a daily basis is distinct from other generations,” the report says. “Many members of Gen Z report having experienced negative emotions — such as stress, anxiety and loneliness — a lot of the prior day. This incidence of negative emotions is particularly high among Gen Z, which reports rates of anxiety, stress, sadness and loneliness at least seven percentage points higher than those of millennials, Gen X, baby boomers and the Silent Generation.”

But most of Gen Z also report feeling optimistic, buoyed by the sense they have a “great future ahead.” And that includes two-thirds of those who rate their mental health as “only fair.” That’s tempered, however, by the sense that they are “not prepared” for that future, at just 44%.

The findings were based on surveys of more than 3,000 young people, ages 12-26, in April and May.

Studying Gen Z

According to a news release about the report, which was released Thursday, the two organizations have launched the “Gen Z Panel,” which is described as “one of the largest and most comprehensive national research panels to track sentiment and behavior of this generation over time.”

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“This is a critical moment for youth and for the adults supporting them,” Romy Drucker, director of the foundation’s education program, said in the release. “This partnership with Gallup will generate insights and perspectives to help us all be better guides, better listeners and better partners as the next generation rises.”

The report finds a link between self-described mental health and the kind of grades that Gen Z students in middle and high school earned. The better their mental health, the more apt they were to report good grades, per the report.

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Among their issues, 40% said they worried at least some about gun violence at school.

Other evidence of Gen Z angst

Other research has reached a similar conclusion about young adults in terms of mental health. The 2022 Stress in America Survey, an annual poll for the American Psychological Association, found that 62% of young women ages 18 to 34 said “most days they are completely overwhelmed by stress,” while 51% of men in that age group said the same. It’s important to note that not all of those young adults are Gen Z; they broke the ages down differently.

In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report calling low mental health levels a public health problem. Even before that, Deseret News reported that “the mental health of millions of American youths has become so fragile that U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy issued an urgent public health advisory.”

He wrote, in part, that “the pandemic era’s unfathomable number of deaths, pervasive sense of fear, economic instability, and forced physical distancing from loved ones, friends, and communities have exacerbated the unprecedented stresses young people already faced.”

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