The world plunged into new challenges of international sanctions, and everyone forgot that humanity had just been ill in the literal and figurative sense. Together we have endured the greatest challenges to the safety and health of entire nations. Now everyone is immersed in a new agenda, and meanwhile, the most serious unresolved issues remain in society, related not only to the far-reaching covid consequences in the field of physical health of millions of people around the world, but also with the psychological health of future generations. And we're talking about the most vulnerable group, the so-called generation of Zetas. Who do we mean by Generation Z? The age of representatives of this generation in many studies varies from 9 to 24 years. We will concentrate our attention on the group of 16-24 years old.
So, it is the Zetas who show the most anxiety as a result of a two-year pandemic in comparison with other generations. It is the Zetas, who were forced to be in a negative information field associated with an uncontrolled epidemic that rapidly claimed the lives of millions, who demonstrate higher rates of stress, depression, and a decrease in a positive outlook for the prospect of social well-being than other age groups. We can already see a crisis in the mental health of the younger generation, which in the long term will affect social and consumer behavior and should certainly be considered by society and business when planning the healthcare ecosystem and the future as a whole.
A plethora of research over these two years indicates significant differences in perceptions of future well-being between generations. On average, every fourth Z feels more emotionally depressed (25% of the audience), which is almost double the similar criteria for assessing the perception of prospects by their millennial parents (25-40 years old) and X-parents (41-56 years old), among which only 13 % demonstrate increased anxiety, and even more so than the anxiety of their grandparents (57-76 years old). Baby Boomers are the most positive about their prospects - only 8% of this audience is experiencing the psychological effects of the pandemic.
58% of the Zetas note the dissatisfaction of a number of social needs, while the older generations - only 16%. The lack of satisfaction of such social needs as financial well-being and consumer opportunities, involvement in social activities and employment, development and education, quality food, comfortable housing, freedom of movement and transport accessibility, social support and security - all this can negatively affect not only the psychological health. As numerous studies show, it is those who have three or more unmet social needs who are twice as likely to demonstrate various forms of mental and, along with it, physical health problems.
Zetas don't ask for help
Before the age of 25, the human brain is not yet fully developed. Awareness of long-term consequences and the ability to restrain impulsive behavior are among the last functions to be formed by the prefrontal lobe of the brain. Thus, adolescents and young adults may be less likely to seek routine or preventive health care. Zetas are 1,6-1,8 times less likely than millennials to report their psychological problems and seek professional help. This is directly related to the lack of support in the family, the fear of public condemnation, the psychological discomfort that accompanies visiting doctors due to behavioral health disorders, and the financial inaccessibility of this area of medical services. Moreover, in a crisis, parents can impose on children a sense of guilt that "it is easier for them to live," in connection with which children try to minimize the problems of their parents by not sharing their problems and experiences with them.
Who helps the Zetas and who do they trust?
Where do the Zetas solve their problems? They find answers and support on social media. For many Gen Zers, it is the first time that behavioral health issues are being addressed in social media communities for advice from other young people with similar problems, as well as from professionals who share advice with their audience in these specialized communities. Of course, this is already better than nothing, however, this approach cannot be considered a full-fledged and effective help to an unprotected audience that needs not only active professional support, but also user-friendly tools that allow you to remain anonymous and receive prompt online help in critical situations.
What could solve this problem
When creating and improving behavioral health tools, it is very important to use an end-user approach. Understanding what drives Zetas to go to social networks for help instead of involving relatives and clinical specialists in this process will allow adapting digital solutions and online services that can really provide the necessary assistance, namely, socially support users, maintain their anonymity if necessary, and promptly in real time to advise those who require psychological counseling. And in this case, the 16-year-old Z will not pour out his thoughts about suicide, fears and depressive thoughts about the futility of his life, on the pages of social networks, but will receive substantive assistance from a professional team of the corresponding specialized service, the application of which can be downloaded to your smartphone by any teenager.
The principle of early intervention in the problem of psychological health should be supported by the functional adaptability of the health care system to the behavioral scenarios of the audience belonging to the digital generation, who prefer specialized applications to face-to-face consultations of specialists. At the state level, it is important to invest in the behavioral health of the younger generation along with the physical one. Promising areas for a national health security program could include telemedicine and all kinds of digital solutions for the digital generation, community-based proactive behavioral health crisis response programs, better basic social needs, and improved mental health literacy. Only a holistic approach covering the behavioral, physical and social aspects of health will provide effective responses to the post-COVID effects of the generation that, in 10 years, will form human capital and ensure Russia's competitiveness in international markets.