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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Scared and sad: Gen Z fears the world

The world is a dangerous place, teenagers and young adults believe. Members of Gen Z -- those born from the late 1990s to the early 2010s -- are more fearful than earlier generations, reports UPI's Susan Kreimer.

Photo: Emre Keshavarz/Pexels

"We live in one of the safest times ever," writes researcher Gabriel Rubin of Montclair State University. Yet Gen Z sees danger "everywhere they turn," and isn't good at risk assessment. Any situation is either safe or unsafe. There are no gray areas.

"They're taught from a young age that the world is ending -- that climate change is going to destroy the planet and that no one is going to do anything it," Rubin said.

Yes, this generation faced pandemic lockdowns and fears of school shootings. But every generation has its challenges.

Constant exposure to news bulletins via social media can be overwhelming, Leah Orchinik, a pediatric psychologist told UPI. "This inundation can mislead people to believe that the rates of negative and/or threatening current and world events are higher than they are, because the exposure to coverage of them is constant," she said.

Teenage girls are reporting very high levels of depression and anxiety, writes Kay Hymowitz, a Manhattan Institute fellow, in What's the matter with girls?

In a 2021 survey, 57 percent of female students reported persistent feeling of sadness or hopelessness, a rise from 36 percent in 2011, she writes.  Last February, the CDC published a survey that found "60 percent of girls felt sadness every day for at least two weeks during the previous year, twice the rate of boys. Alarmingly, 1 in 3 teen girls had considered taking her own life."

Girls do worse than boys, and the "happiness gap" is wider in WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic) countries than in poorer, less equal countries, Hymowitz writes.

She suspects "social media and digital life are damaging adolescent mental health," and hurting girls more because they spend more time on social media.

A study of adolescent mental health in 73 countries finds "girls are worse off than their brothers on just about every dimension of happiness," she writes.

Money doesn't buy happiness: "Girls in wealthier European nations consistently have worse average mental health than girls in less advantaged countries," the study shows. It appears that "Western freedom to pursue self-defined life goals doesn’t make girls any happier than girls whose choices are more limited in work, marriage, and childbearing," writes Hymowitz.  

She suspects that "an established script where there are fewer choices might well make puberty less of an existential predicament . . . Whatever its benefits — and there are many — growing up in a society that can only answer the big questions of adult life with 'it’s all up to you' can be more troubling than freeing for a 12-year-old."

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