Story at a glance

  • A new study found that Gen Z Americans between the ages of 13 and 24 reported significantly high levels of stress.
  • The results showed that Gen Z has had their social lives, educational and career goals, and well-being jeopardized by the pandemic.
  • Thirty-two percent said fear of getting COVID-19 was also a major source of stress.

As the world enters year two of the pandemic, Americans between the ages of 13 and 24 are still experiencing high levels of stress brought on by issues around COVID-19.

A new study was published on Tuesday, conducted by the MTV Entertainment Group and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. It found that Gen Z Americans have had their social lives, educational and career goals, and well being jeopardized by the pandemic.

MTV/AP-NORC conducted a poll among 2,683 Gen Z Americans and found that 38 percent felt their family and other personal relationships were a major source of stress. Personal finances and uncertainty about how the COVID-19 pandemic will be in the fall were both major sources of stress for 37 percent of respondents.

Thirty-two percent said fear of getting COVID-19 was also a major source of stress.


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When it came to education, 65 percent of Gen Z respondents said that was very or extremely important to their identity. However, 46 percent felt that the pandemic has made pursuing their education or career goals more difficult. That’s a significant difference from older generations, with only 36 percent of Millennials feeling the same way and only 31 percent of Gen X.

When asked how the pandemic has shaped their well being, 55 percent of Gen Z Americans said having fun was much or somewhat more difficult. Maintaining mental health was also considered a struggle, with 49 percent saying it was much or somewhat more difficult. 

Forty-six percent also indicated that pursuing a career or education goals was also much or somewhat more difficult.

Teens and young adults have shared a substantial burden of the pandemic, with schools being forced to move online, which limited the ability for students to socialize and interact with classmates and friends. 

Cora Breuner, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, told The Associated Press that the stress that adolescents have experienced in the pandemic is partially due to the stage of brain development they’re in. 

“It’s this perfect storm where you have isolated learning, decreased social interaction with peers, and parents who also are struggling with similar issues,” said Breuner.

Breuner explained that as young people’s lives at school are disrupted and many begin to fall behind, they’re also lacking the development needed to cope with stress and make decisions.

The new poll from MTV/AP-NORC is consistent with another recent study conducted on students attending the University of Pittsburgh. Researchers found that almost half of the student participants were at risk of clinical depression compared to a little over one-third prior to the pandemic, a 36 percent increase. 

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh study argued that understanding the persistence of the pandemic’s impacts on lifestyle and mental well-being is critical for informing policy. They estimated the short term physical and mental health costs of the pandemic to be $2.6 trillion and $1.6 trillion, respectively. 

They warned that if lifestyle habits and mental well-being don’t rebound naturally as the pandemic eases, interventions may be required to help push people back to a sense of normalcy.


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Published on Dec 07, 2021