Ask a baby boomer or a gen X-er about milennials and they’ll roll their eyes and lament that Millennials are whiney, lazy and unappreciative.
According to wikipedia, baby boomers were born anywhere from 1943-1960 and are therefore anywhere from the age of 57-74 years old as of 2017, Generation X were born anywhere from 1960-1970s/1980s (the demographics on that one are a bit sketchier) and Millennials are defined as being born starting anywhere from the 1980’s-Mid 1990’s, although some sources say that its anywhere from late 1980’s up until early 2000’s.
My grandparents are baby boomers, my parents are generation X and I am a millennial (sometimes known as a Generation Y).
My grandparents often lament Millennials as whiny and lazy, as well as pointing out that they’re unemployed and use mental health as an excuse to do nothing. This trend of lambasting the newest/youngest generation is not new, it goes all the way back to Socrates, who allegedly said “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”
If Socrates thought that those younger than him were bad mannered, disrespectful and preferred gossip to exercise, it’s pretty obvious that the trend of the older generations bitching about the younger generation isn’t new or innovative, nor is it a direct assault on the youngest generation, moreover it is a societal trend that has been around since recorded history.
That begs the question, what does the older generation gain from insulting the younger generation? And in the case of baby boomers, gen X and millennials, how does pointing out the rise of mental health issues in Millennials add anything to society? The short answer is, it doesn’t.
When I look at my circle of friends, nearly all of them have been on anti depressants, anti anxiety or a plethora of other drugs designed to adjust brain chemistry. To me this is a great thing, because it means these people who mean the world to me went to their doctor, spoke about their struggles and got help. But when I talk to baby boomers or Gen X-ers, I hear the argument that it just means that Millennials are weak cry babies who can’t “suck it up” or “tough it out”.
This argument is fucking toxic, and it pisses me off. It makes me so angry that I can rarely formulate a good response to the “debate” that I know is coming.
I found one study that had the following results:
- Depression Diagnoses
○ 19% of Millennials
○ 14% of Generation Xers (ages 34-47)
○ 12% of Baby Boomers (ages 48-66)
○ 11% of aged 67 and older
- Anxiety Diagnoses
○ 12% of Millennials
○ 8% of Generation Xers
○ 7% of Baby Boomers
○ 4% of aged 67 and older
Based on these stats, it’s pretty clear that Millennials are the most diagnosed in both categories, and that the diagnosis rate drops substantially as we go further back in generations.
There are many reasons why this could be happening but I won’t actually speculate on those because I am not a statistician, or a scientist, or anything which would qualify me to speculate on the reasons why. What I will say is that the increase in diagnoses of mental health disorders in younger people is not because they’re lazy or unappreciative or weak, it is because they were brave enough to seek help, to say to those around them or their doctor “I am struggling, I am depressed/anxious/stressed and I need help”
Millennials are by far one of the most unique generations, we’re living at home with our parents longer, moving out and then coming back, unemployed at higher rates, don’t own our own home until we’re much older, or maybe not at all, because it is much harder to get into the housing market these days. All of these concerns lead to one big factor which plays a huge role in mental health concerns: STRESS.
Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers like to point out that at “their age, I had a steady job, my own home and a family!” as though Millennials are wilfully ignoring the perks of a steady job and their own home, and the fact that their own family might be quite nice (not taking into account the perfectly valid decision that kids are not on the cards for some). It is statistically proven that getting into the housing market is much harder for Millennials than it has been in the past, and frankly, in most Australian cities the rental market is no better. Add to that, that after the economic bust in 2007-2008 (now known as the Great Recession), the job market stagnated, the cost of living rose, and the housing market became even more inaccessible and it’s no wonder that Millennials are stressed, depressed and anxious in record numbers!
All of that is to say, while it is somewhat of a cultural tradition to pile onto the youngest generation as the “laziest yet” or the “whiniest yet” it’s not helpful, it’s toxic and harmful and it’s all round a dick move.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re a Millennial and to you I say: Keep doing what you’re doing, get help if you need it, and remember that just because you’re young doesn’t mean you’re any less valid in society.
If you’re one of the few Baby Boomers or Gen X-ers reading this, to you I say: Please think about what you believe about Millennials and do some research, because Millennials are just doing the best they can with the world they inherited.
If you’re struggling with mental health concerns, please speak to your doctor, a trusted friend or call your nearest helpline.