A Generational Divide on Workplace Mental Health

By Alana Smart / May 24, 2023 / Blog ,

divided workers

A Generational Divide on Workplace Mental Health

Recent research from Society for Human Resource Management Foundation has found that there is a significant generational divide in the way employees experience mental health in the workplace. Gen Z and Millennial workers struggle more than older generations when it comes to mental health at work. Some of the differences in how the generations responded to survey questions underscore the challenges faced by younger workers. The generational divide on workplace mental health may also suggest a changing attitude toward being open about mental health in the workplace, especially among younger generations.

SHRM researchers surveyed 1,000 workers in March for their “2023 State of Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplace” report. Of those surveyed, one in three employees reported that their job had had a negative impact on their mental health in the past six months. Thirty percent said that their job had made them feel overwhelmed. Additionally, 29% said their job had caused them to feel anxious at least once per week over the last six months.

The survey results, when broken down by generation, showed that younger workers were hit the hardest. More than one in four Gen Z employees said that their job made them feel depressed at least once a week in the last six months. Comparatively, 18% of Millennials, 14% of Gen Xers and 7% of Baby Boomers & Traditionalists reported the same. Forty-two percent of Gen Z workers and 36% of Millennial workers stated their job made them feel overwhelmed once a week in the last six months, compared to less than one in four (20%) of Baby Boomers and Traditionalists. Additionally, nearly 25% of Gen Z workers and 17% of Millennial workers reported that their job had made them feel lonely at least once a week in the last six months compared to only 5% of Baby Boomers and Traditionalists.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, mental health and wellness at work has become a hot button topic. Subsequentially it is becoming less taboo to discuss, with many younger employees advocating for greater wellness benefits. In a recent survey of 2023 college graduates, almost all respondents said employers should offer mental and emotional health benefits and more than one-third said they’re prioritizing employers that do so during their job search. The American Psychological Association’s 2022 Work and Well-being survey included workers of all ages. According to their research, 80% of workers said an employer’s approach to mental health would be “an important consideration” when job hunting.

“An employer’s role in addressing employees’ mental health as it relates to the workplace has obviously become increasingly important,” SHRM Foundation President Wendi Safstrom said in a press release. “Finding, communicating, and providing access to the benefits and support that reflect the needs of your employees, especially in a multigenerational workplace, is key.”

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