Isolation. Anxiety. Uncertainty. The stresses of the coronavirus pandemic have taken a toll on Americans of all ages, but a new poll finds that teens and young adults have faced some of the heaviest struggles as they come of age during a time of extreme turmoil. Specifically, when it comes to education, friendships, and dating, the disruption has had a pronounced impact among Gen Z.
The survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, and MTV Entertainment Group, included ages 13-34 and 46% said the pandemic has made it harder to pursue their education or career goals, compared to other generations. After months of remote schooling and limited social interaction, teens and young adults are reporting higher rates of depression and anxiety.
A similar gap when it came to dating and romantic relationships. Forty-five percent in Gen Z reported more difficulty maintaining good relationships with friends, compared to other generations.
The outsize impact on children and adolescents is partly linked to where they are in brain development. Those periods are when humans see the most growth in executive function–the complex mental skills needed to navigate daily life. Dr. Cora Breuner, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital notes, “It’s a perfect storm where you have isolated learning, decreased social interaction with peers, and parents who also are struggling with similar issues. . . .Young people are falling behind in school, and behind in skills needed to cope with stress and make decisions.”
Condensed from “Poll: Pandemic Stress Has Weighed on Gen Z,” The Springfield News Leader, Nation and the World, Tuesday, December 7, 2021, by Collin Binkley and Hannah Fingerhut