Constantly labelled “the snowflake” generation, millennials have been teased and undermined as a result of the previously taboo subjects that they have internalised, often in relation to mental health issues and political awareness. However, with an employment structure that is morphing more and more into one characterised by risk and instability, is it any wonder that mental health has become more prominent in millennial discourse?
With a growing precariousness creeping its way into all aspects of life and society, millennials are increasingly subjected to an instability accredited to the modern day emergence of a risk society. Put simply, aspects in society such as employment, are becoming less and less stable due to the industrial and market changes that have resulted from an increasingly globalised and technical world. With talks of the “rent generation” and market instability emphasising the lack of permanence and security that the younger generations are having to come to terms with, economic experts and politicians alike seem to be at odds with the economic and social realities that are having to be faced.
Not only are members of Generation Z estimated to change careers twice as many times as those from Generation X, they also have to work harder to feel secure in employment – with a survey by Deloitte showing that 77% of employees are feeling burnt out at their current jobs. In reality, millennials feel like they must compensate for the lack of security that the employment market offers them, by working enough to ensure permanence to the highest extent. With 2017 being the record holding year for the most 18 year olds being accepted into higher education, job roles previously reserved for a smaller circle of university graduates have now become a grounds for competition, allowing for the rise of more exploitative and temporary work variations – seen from zero hour contracts, un-paid internships, and the rise of a gig economy. With such a disposable work force emerging, it is no real wonder why millennials are experiencing a growing amount of career changes and burnouts.
Instability and the decline of permanence is not just monopolised by the employment market. House prices have risen 6% faster than wages, defining mortgages as an unrealistic and abstract concept for many young adults growing up in Britain. The percentage of those aged between 25 and 34 whom live in a property they own rather than rent has declined 20% in the last decade to just 37%. Millennials are having to rely upon renting houses, often at an extortionate price, on both long term and short term contracts resulting in dis-attachment replacing certainty. However, cultural expectations have not yet been affected by these economic changes and thus still emphasises the importance in mortgaging and house ownership. This pressure is in turn then manifested more clearly in the growing rates of anxiety and depression starting at an increasingly young age.
The identity of millennials is at a crisis – previous assets, the area someone lives, and career would be huge contributors to one’s sense of belonging and purpose. For Generation Z, the lack of permanence and accessibility to all of these things becomes a barrier and often a problem. The rise in mental health issues such as anxiety and depression have been direct consequences of this dis-attachment and instability. Rather than being categorically undermined through names such as the “burnout” or “snowflake” generation, it would be more beneficial for the mainstream media, academics and politicians to recognise the emerging pressures that modern society comes with.