Perils of handling raw meat aside, millennials’ dissatisfaction with their lives is grounded in stark reality – studies have shown worries over job security, lack of affordable housing, the UK’s uncertain future post-Brexit and ill health due to a lack of work-life balance are among the top causes of millennial unhappiness. As a generation, they’re bearing the brunt of the 2007 financial crash – while unemployment rates are at their lowest since 1975, wage growth is still weak and Brexit has the potential to damage the economy further. All the while, the housing market has skyrocketed; owning a home is but a fantasy for most, and rising rent means the average millennial spends 45% of their monthly income on renting their home, outpacing Gen Xers (41%) and baby boomers (35%).
Furthermore, being brought up with the internet has had a huge impact on their mental wellbeing. Social media use has proven links to depression, and despite allowing people to connect with anyone in the world, it’s leading to less real-life interaction. Unsurprisingly, millennials are one of the loneliest generations in Britain – a 2014 study found that 18-24-year olds were four times as likely to feel lonely all the time as those aged 70 and above, and 86% of millennials reported feeling lonely and depressed in a 2011 report.
Social media use appears to be a bone of contention between millennials and their elders. But while older people may see Twitter feeds – filled with complaints and self-entitled statements, petty arguments and trigger warnings – as echo chambers for the over-sensitive, Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, authors of Microagression and Moral Cultures, believe this behaviour is as old as time, just packed in a new form. “In some ways this new morality harkens back to the past. In cultures where men fought duels, insults were taken seriously,” they told Time magazine.
Britons are perpetually stuck with the idea that talking about our feelings, or vocalising what really goes in our minds, is wrong. Our nation’s stoic nature has long dictated how we talk about mental health, so it’s no wonder millennials’ willingness to vocalise their struggles is being criticised by older generations – breaking through the social stigma was never going to be easy.
Yes, they may have a tendency to express themselves too much, or be outraged too often, or visit their therapist too many times a month – but, ultimately, it’s how young people are dealing with, and vocalising their emotions; something older generations have been conditioned not to do.
Simply telling young people they ‘have it easy’, and to ‘just get on with it’ isn’t productive. Because what has the stiff upper lip mentality really achieved? The baby boomer generation are the ones who foster it the most, and it’s killing them – rates of suicide are highest in middle-aged men, while studies have suggested middle-aged women have the highest rates of depression.
The past was hard, there’s no two ways about it, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the plight of newer generations – aiming towards a better future is something that benefits everyone.