Americans are suffering a crisis of mental health. The crisis is especially pronounced among young people. This extends beyond the Covid-19 outbreak when schools were closed, kids were taught from home and shut off from their peers. Research has found that Millennials and Generation Z experience more negative emotions (stress and anxiety) than older generations, with Gen Z worse off than Millennials. Perhaps the explanation is that younger adults are new at adult life. Beginning careers, getting married and starting families is stressful in the beginning. According to a Gallup poll for the Walton Family Foundation:
Less than half (47%) of Gen Z Americans are thriving in their lives — among the lowest across all generations in the U.S. today and a much lower rate than millennials at the same age.
One problem with kids, adolescents, young adults and everyone else with mental health deficits is the shortage of mental health counselors. This from Counseling Today, a publication of the American Counseling Association:
According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 47% of the U.S. population in 2022 was living in a mental health workforce shortage area, with some states requiring up to 700 more practitioners to remove this designation. The reasons underlying this shortage are complex, causing many mental health professionals to feel there may be more challenges than solutions to this growing problem.
According to Counseling Today the reason for the shortage of counselors is primarily lack of funding. The experts interviewed gave five reasons (Lack of funding, Poor reimbursement rates, Low retention, Increased need for services and limited access to care, and An aging workforce). All five reasons came down to the fact that there is little money to pay counselors’ salaries. Basically, patients must pay out of pocket and patients cannot afford to pay cash. This is especially true when one counseling session is unlikely to have any real impact on someone’s well being.
Resent surveys have found that younger consumers define wellness different than older ones. Mental health, as opposed to physical health, is a top priority.
Young healthcare consumers under the age of 45 want different things from older generations — such as an increased focus on preventive health, and more attention to mental health — according to a recent survey out of The 3rd Eye, a health and wellness agency.
The survey explores what wellness means for younger generations as well as the different racial and ethnic groups within that age group.
Translation: people who are relatively healthy (because they’re young) want to stay healthy and prefer to spend their health care dollars on staying healthy and improving their mental health.
Health priorities are also different depending on gender, with women being more likely to define mental health as the most important aspect, at 58% compared to 51% of men.
The younger generations are also more likely, unsurprisingly, to turn to social media for healthcare advice. Nearly 50% of respondents report that they search for health information via Google, 32% from word of mouth and 20% from social media influencers — rather than traditional advertising.
Younger people seek advice on TikTok, 84% of which is misleading, potentially harmful or wrong.
Some influencers have become so popular that they’ve accumulated millions of followers on the platform, as teens and adults alike increasingly sought out mental health advice in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An analysis of TikTok mental health content creators found that only 9% of the TikTok had relevant qualifications and medical training. This is about as absurd as news that DIY dentistry is popular on Tiktok.
What is interesting to me is that, outside of old Newhart reruns, nobody ever talks about group therapy anymore. In the Information Age coming together as a group would seem far easier and more useful than at any time in history. I wrote about it here and here.