In the best of times, the transition into adulthood can be anxiety-inducing for young adults. Traditionally, they’re renting and buying homes and apartments, finishing education, starting careers and building long-lasting relationships. Today’s world makes those important milestones more difficult and sometimes impossible.
In 2020, cases of anxiety disorders grew by 25% worldwide compared to the previous year, largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, that’s only the start of it. Let’s explore what recent societal conditions mean for today’s young adults and their mental health.
As of January 2022, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, reports that almost 44 million students are still impacted by pandemic-related school closures. In 2021, those numbers were much higher. For students of all ages, that meant online instruction or none at all.
For young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, a lifetime of academic work had to be put on hold. Many were on the cusp of high school and college graduation or entering post-graduate studies. As academic institutions closed, re-opened and closed again, students faced an uncertain future:
- Would studies and internships resume?
- Would funding for important research be cut?
- Would businesses in their fields even be hiring upon graduation?
For years, young people have weighed the cost of student loans against the benefits of college. The trials of the pandemic tipped the scales in a disheartening direction. After watching slightly older peers start jobs after graduation, today’s young adults feel the anxiety of unemployment before their education has even finished.
A World of Uncertain Career Opportunities
The recent uptick in anxiety isn’t restricted to the halls of higher learning. Many talented, hard-working young adults had already entered the working world, but for many, it was a false start.
In July of 2020, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 31.3 million people were unable to return to work because their employers closed or lost a significant amount of business during the pandemic. This figure includes a range of industries:
- Tech startups
- Service and Food
- Automobile manufacturing
Young adults watched loved ones struggle to pay bills and struggled themselves in a vicious vortex of anxiety. Those fortunate enough to retain their jobs suffered burnout at alarming rates due to understaffing and longer hours. Establishing a healthy work/life balance is yet another milestone denied to numerous young adults in the workforce today.
High Cost of Living
To compound anxiety about employment, 2021 saw the highest increase in consumer prices since 1982. This totaled up to about a 7% increase in the cost of living, including:
- A 6% increase in the price of food
- An increase of 58% in gasoline prices
- An average rent increase of 3%
- Medical care prices rising by 2%
By the end of the same year, wages and salaries only increased by an average of 4.5%. For young adults, that diminished chances of saving for a home, retirement, a family and financial security — all important benchmarks for those one their own for the first time. With little hope for financial mobility, it’s easy to see why young adults are anxious about their situations.
Isolation: A Worrying Default State
These factors all led to increased isolation. In lieu of developing strong relationships with colleagues, coworkers and new friends, many young adults developed an unhealthy relationship with social media. In fact, around 40% of young adults report social media addiction.
This may seem like good way to stay connected to the world during the pandemic, but social media addiction feeds anxious thought patterns and habits such as:
- Doom scrolling, a term for scrolling through social media feeds full of bad news for extended periods of time
- Comparing oneself to unrealistic portrayals of life
- Fear of missing out (FOMO), a state of feeling like one is missing out on fun activities
- Using likes and shares as superficial metrics of self-worth
Though social media seemed to temporarily fill social needs during the pandemic, it quickly became a problem for many. Without the fulfillment of steady work and education, many young people lost their developing senses of identity and self-worth.
Hope For Anxious Young People in a Worrying World
Though all of these problems are still rampant, young people can find a glimmer of hope in one thing — the world is talking about anxiety and mental health more than ever before.
While the statistics shared in this article look grim, they help break the taboo surrounding anxiety and other mental health issues. Young adults that have been suffering in silence can find solace in the fact that they are not alone. They can better help each other and find the professional help they need.
Mental health advocates and researchers have been doing important work for decades. Now that their work is being discussed by news outlets, celebrities, world leaders and society at large, we can finally put it to good use and empower generations to come.
Turning Conversations About Anxiety Into Action
Breaking the taboo surrounding anxiety and mental health doesn’t end with conversations. For discussions and studies to be meaningful, they must result in action. That’s where peers and mental health professionals come in.
Armed with meaningful data about mental health, young adults can better help loved ones through trying times. With that data also comes hope for more widely-available and robust mental health services. As mental health becomes just as important to the public as heart disease and cancer, the coming years will hopefully see more time, money and infrastructure dedicated to it.
Enhance Health Group of Orange County, California, hopes to be an integral part of this mental health revolution. We help young adults suffering from anxiety every day with:
- Daily adaptive living skills programs that focus on building healthy routines
- 24-hour residential care
- Personalized therapy programs that address co-existing mood disorders, trauma and other mental health concerns
We understand that anxiety looks different for everyone. For a solution tailored to you, contact us in Irvine today.