Why are millennials depressed? Don’t they have it easier than every generation before them? They have smartphones, on demand TV, Facebook, and cheap fast food.
This is the argument that those from previous generations sometimes make. It would seem that millennials (anyone who was born in the mid-eighties) have never had life easier. There is so much opportunity out there for them. In reality, this is not always the case. In fact, if you ask any millennial, they’ll probably tell you the opposite – that they have got it hard. I write this as a millennial. I do not write it for sympathy or help, but from an inside point of view. I write it as someone who sees a huge number of other millennials struggling to ‘get ahead’ in a world that wants to take more and more from us.
This is a subject that I am personally living right now, and more importantly, is a subject that needs to be talked about, because of the rising numbers of depression and anxiety.
Previous Generations Had ‘It’ Hard Too
Let’s get one thing straight first, previous generations had it hard too. Arguably, harder than us. The ‘silent generation’ was drafted to go to war. It was likely in the first and second World Wars that you wouldn’t make it home alive. This is something that I think millennials need to remember. This was not a choice like we have today.
We were sent to war and just had to deal with it – end of story. Food was scarce, the threat of invasion was forever present, and the future of mankind was in question for years. This was a terrifying reality. This is why those from previous generations feel as if they had tougher skins. And in many cases, they might be right. However, today’s generation has their own battle to fight, and it seems it is with themselves.
The generation to follow the silent generation was the ‘baby boomers’, who were fortunate to be born just after the second World War. This was a time when industries exploded, with new industry came more jobs, and a cheap abundance of housing. The UK and the USA economies were growing at a breathtaking rate, and every man woman and child was to benefit in some way from this innovation. There were plenty of perks like bonuses, paid overtime, and cheap accomodation. You still had to work hard, but you would be comfortable if you put in the hours. You still had enough spare cash to go out for dinner a couple of times a week, or take a trip to the theatre.
During this huge surge, housing was affordable, and it would seem that over the next 50 years, housing would be a worthy investment if you were to buy in early on. Your housing would be your number one asset, and if you bought more than one property, you’d have assets that would increase in value dramatically over time, leaving you with the option to rent a property out, or sell it for a hefty sum on cash.
Fast Forward To The 21st Century…
Those who bought their housing rightfully stayed put. The value of the properties skyrocketed, and those fortunate enough to own their own homes became wealthy in assets. In most cases, millennials do not have that same option to buy their first home cheap and sit on it for years. House prices are now so high that it has become almost impossible for millennials to even start saving for a deposit to put down on a house, because we now pay a fortune in rent…hence most are living at their parents houses until they are in their 30’s.
Here’s why some of us struggle with that…
Many millennials grew up in their baby boomers parents homes. They only knew of an existence where growing up and getting a house was normal. However, when they left home, things didn’t exactly work out like they thought they would. The ideas portrayed by western societies involve the following outline for a human life;
- Leave home
- Get a job
- Buy a house
- Have some kids
- Live in your home until retirement
This ‘life plan’ which was shown to us by baby boomers and the wider society, is partly to blame for millennials being depressed. The problem is, this white picket fence lifestyle is one that belonged to baby boomers, and the current economic climate does not provide this same option to the new generation. The expectation of this straight-forward looking life is shattered by the reality that millennials now live in a new world where this lifestyle is still being portrayed to us, but in reality is becoming a thing of the past.
This transition period in history is being lived by millennials who are seeing firsthand the cross-over in how young people work and get housing.
With each year that passes, living the same ‘comfy life’ as our parents did is becoming something so completely unrealistic. Those of us who have a hard time accepting we will not take this same path are becoming depressed. Why is that? Well, we spent our lives growing up thinking that this path through life was the way to do things, because again, it is what is portrayed to us in films, TV, school, and from previous generations.
There is currently a collision in generational lifestyle. One side (baby boomers) say ‘do this’, and the other side (Millennials), say ‘If I could, I would.’
Accommodation Feels Like A Sick Joke
The same generation that tries to tell millennials what they should be doing, are the same ones who are preying on their vulnerabilities to their own benefit. All a young man or woman wants to do is have their independence when they reach a certain age. This has been the same since the dawn of time. However, if you think it’s going to be easy today, think again. If you’re under 30 years old today then you probably know how much it costs to rent accommodation. Those who are not fortunate to buy their own homes must rent, until they can hopefully one day do the same thing. Because owning a home is next to impossible (unless you are handed a lump sum from your parents) you are channeled into the world of renting.
Unfortunately, those who own properties understand this fact, and so rent prices are pushed through the roof due to the demand, and, on top of that, landlords are raising the prices every single year for many renters. Millennials have no choice but to pay surging rent prices, admin fees, and checking in and out fees. What’s worse still, the rent industry in heavily unregulated, meaning charges can be added on for almost anything. Just do a search for rent scandals and you’ll find plenty of stories.
Millennials being exploited by this system is another reason why depression among millennials is so rife. With no hope of owning a home in our lifetime, and being taken advantage of with rent prices, we wonder how we’ll ever get ahead and be able to afford to save any money for the future. To add to this, lots of people from previous generations have no idea this happens, which is why they ask us why we complain so much. They are so removed from what it means to grown up in the 21st Century, that they wouldn’t even know what renting accomodation in this day and age looks like. They would assume it was cheap and available like it was when they were in their 20’s…
Your Degree Means Jack Sh*t
A baby boomer would get their degree after working hard at University and then employers would absorb them, only taking those who had shown their worth and dedication to a subject. A job used to mean ‘a job for life.’ You could quite literally stay in a job for your whole life, never having to be too worried about where your next paycheck was coming from.
When I was in college I made the conscious decision not to go to University. For one, I hated studying, but at the same time, there was an alarm bell ringing in my head. I realised I didn’t want to study a subject, just because it interested me a bit and would be ‘good enough’. To add to that, I would have a mountain of student debt that I’d be paying off for the rest of my life. I’m now glad that I didn’t try and do it. Millennials live in a world where pay comes before skill. That means, even if you have the right qualifications for a job, someone else who doesn’t could get it, just because they don’t mind being paid less than you.
There is now something absurd called a ‘zero hour contract’, which means at any time you could find yourself without any hours to work at the discretion of the employer. Those who were once employed based on their skills, are now only employed when they are needed, just to save money.
There is a level of uncertainty when it comes to earning a living for Millenials. Much like owning a home, the pathway to earning a living is no longer a straight walk to the finish line. Millennials are not work shy, instead, they are just as willing to do the work as previous generations. Their unwillingness to work image is being mistaken for demotivation. The fact that they live a lifetime of uncertainty is making millennials depressed about their futures. A lack of perks for working more or doing extra hours is causing millennials to search for more meaningful work, rather than what they might have originally wanted to do to earn a decent living.
Everything Costs More But Wages Don’t Match
Rising prices are fine, it’s when wages don’t match the cost of living people start to get uncomfortable. Unfortunately, wages are so low, food banks have started popping up all over developed countries. The sheer gap in wealth inequality has meant that those who used to be considered ‘middle class’ are now considered ‘working class’.
If we buy things we don’t need, it is our fault. However, it is the essentials that are becoming more and more expensive. Don’t believe me? Shockingly, there is a new phenomenon called ‘period poverty. What does it mean exactly? It means that young girls can’t even afford the cost of period products. That’s right, there are actually companies out there that are benefiting financially from you having a period once a month.
Whilst having a period as a young girl can be embarrassing enough, you’re also expected to fork out a fortune to have one! It is true that any essential in life is bound to be exploited in some way by those looking to turn a profit, but this particular essential is shocking to say the least.
Fast food is something that most of us are thankful for, it’s cheap, and can be made quickly. However, if you’re looking to get onto a healthy eating plan, you might be stunned to see how much it eats into your bank balance.
Whilst there are ways to eat good for less, eating out is something rare for millennials, who need to use their cash to pay off bills and debt. Those who do treat themselves to a meal at a restaurant often feel the ramifications later on in the month when their money runs out.
Whilst this may sound like a generalisation, I’ve personally known many millennials who have suffered greatly by treating themselves every now and again. Whilst we should be careful with our money, it is also important that we get the opportunity to break up our routines from work by having a meal out now and again, or to go and watch a movie at the cinema with our friends. Millennials are finding themselves short of spare cash to socialise, which is highly beneficial for a person’s mental wellbeing and lowering feelings of loneliness.
There’s More Bullsh*t To Consume
Whilst previous generations will say that millennials have everything at their fingertips, most millennials would take the simple life if they could. There is more bullshit to consume than ever, and all of it is geared towards millennials. Industries target their products at us, making it seem like we’d be happier if we owned their new smartphones. The options are endless, but it’s causing more harm than good. No one needs a new iPhone, we simply want one because of the promise that’s sold to us. We are told that the new car will make us happier, our holidays are great deals, eating fast food will make us feel good, and the list goes on and on…
The trouble we face is, we’re bombarded by promises. shiny products and smiling faces on advertisements. Many of us will give in a believe the promises. We’re so fed up with ourselves that we feel as if we need ‘things’ to improve our lives. The noise this creates is deafening, and so we spend what little money we do have on the things we don’t need. What we need to do is ignore the promises and rethink what we’re shown. We all have a responsibility to make good decisions, but those of us who are more vulnerable are still at risk of spending too much and getting into avoidable debt.
Why Are Millennials Depressed?
If the above combination of situations isn’t enough to show you why some millennials are depressed, I don’t know what else to tell you. However, I can tell you that if you ask any millennial, they’ll tell you that they understand and appreciate that previous generations also had their own struggles. But this is the age we live in now, and if any change is to happen, it needs to be from the support from all generations, otherwise, we won’t just have a generation of people who feel like they’ve been left behind, we’ll also have market crashes that will be difficult to recover from, and a mental health epidemic unlike anything else we’ve seen before. Unfortunately, we’re already seeing rising levels of anxiety and depression in millennials as well as the general population.
The struggle that millennials face is really down to their worries about the future. However, all hope isn’t quite lost, millennials are now taking matters into their own hands. With nothing no longer guaranteed, they are now redefining what ‘making a living’ means. The gig economy, whilst still unstable, is a chance for millenials to earn some extra cash that ultimately gives them back a bit of empowerment. There’s new freelance work that didn’t exist 20 years ago, many are starting their own businesses, or creating their own ways to make a living.
In the next 50 years, we will be out of the transitional period from boomers to millennials, and the way we live will be completely different. Depression among millenials is a byproduct of the overlap in generations and generational ideas, added with the social pressures and hyperactive consumerism.
Millennials do not want sympathy or to be treated softly, we just want a chance to define our generation the way we want to so that we can level the playing field. Instead of aiming for the white picket fence lifestyle, we will aspire to be freer and more open-minded in the big decisions we make in our lifetime.
This post was previously published on ProjectEnergise.com.
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