Today’s Tense Political Climate Is Stressing Gen Z Out But They Are More Likely to Seek Mental Help

The American Psychological Association in collaboration with The Harris Poll just released its annual Stress in America survey, which uncovers the causes of stress in Americans’ lives and their mechanisms for coping.

After surveying more than 3,000 Americans across the U.S., the 12th iteration of the study revealed that the current political climate is a key source of stress, particularly among members of Generation Z, those aged 15 to 21.

Gen Z report more stress than adults overall about issues in the news. Gun violence, family separations and the #MeToo scandals dominated the news this past year, and teens and young adults—from the Parkland Five to the National School Walkouts—are increasingly speaking out on these issues.

However, our study shows that these high-profile issues are significant stressors for Gen Z. Of all the generations, America’s youngest adults are most likely to report poor mental health. Compared to 74% of adults overall, 91% of Gen Zers between ages 18 and 21 say they have experienced at least one physical or emotional symptom due to stress in the past month.

As expected, owing to the trauma and prevalence of mass shootings in America—where there is a mass shooting nine out of every 10 days—, safety is a top concern for Gen Z. Three in four of Gen Zers (75%) report mass shootings as a significant source of stress, topping all other generations: 69% of Millennials report similar feelings, and 58% of both Gen Xers and Boomers.

In their personal lives, Gen Zers say money and work are leading stressors. More than eight in 10 (81%) of Gen Zers between the ages of 18 and 21 report money as a source of significant stress, with nearly as many (77%) saying the same about work. Nearly two in three Gen Zers ages 15 to 17 (63%) report their families not having enough money is a significant source of stress. For more than three in 10 Gen Zers, personal debt (33%) and housing instability (31%) are a significant source of stress, while nearly three in 10 (28%) cite hunger or getting enough to eat.

How do Gen Zers manage this stress? Unlike other generations, Gen Zers are more likely to seek professional help for mental health issues and receive treatment or therapy. 37% report receiving help from a psychologist or other mental health professional—the highest percentage among all the generations.

Social media is an enormous part of Gen Z’s lives, and for more than half of them (55%), it provides a feeling of support. The flipside, however, is that nearly half say social media makes them feel judged (45%), and nearly two in five (38%) report feeling bad about themselves as a result of social media use.


Gen Z is not the only generation feeling stressed; the same can be said for all American adults, with the average reported stress level being 4.9 (on a scale of 1 to 10). For the rest of the country, the current political atmosphere is obviously a top stressor. More than six in 10 Americans (62%) say so and more than half of adults (56%) say “this is the lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember.”

Even the nation’s future is anxiety-inducing as more than two-thirds of Americans (69%) saying that it causes them significant stress, a considerable increase from those who said the same in 2017 (63%). A contributing factor to this stressor is that most Americans (61%) disagree that our country is on a path to being stronger than ever.


As Americans express concerns about the nation’s present and future, many are taking steps to effect change. Nearly half of Americans (45%) feel more compelled to volunteer or support causes they value. And nearly six in 10 Americans (57%) have taken action in some way in the past year, with signing a petition (26%) and speaking with a family member or friend about political views (23%) being two commonly cited actions.

Notwithstanding their current and future anxieties about the nation, many Americans still feel hopeful about their personal lives. In fact, more than seven in 10 Gen Zers (71%) report feeling hopeful about their own future. While three-quarters of Americans (75%), in general, feel hopeful about their futures.

You can read the full study here.