Gen Z’s Mental Health Crisis | A Costly Struggle

Alex Haider

Gen Z are facing unique challenges as they navigate the modern world. Much of their formative years have been shaped by global events: war, economic turmoil, the COVID19 pandemic, terrorism, to name just a few. 

The cost-of-living crisis, in particular, has had a detrimental effect on Gen Z. Basic human necessities, such as staying warm and having enough to eat are no longer granted. Many young consumers are faced with uncertainty on how they’re going to pay their bills, with some revealing they’ve had to “choose between heating and eating”.

In our latest report, Breaking Point: Gen Z’s Mental Health Crisis, we explore the effect that the cost-of-living crisis has had on mental health. We look at how economic uncertainty has led to increased anxiety, stress and feelings of shame, and share what brands and institutes should be doing to mediate this.

Rising costs, deteriorating mental health

The relationship between money struggles and mental health is cyclical – poor mental health can affect our income and outgoings, and money struggles can contribute to poor mental health. According to our data, Gen Z are feeling the pinch more than ever; with 60% sharing that concerns about their finances had led to a decline in their mental health.

One Voxburner panellist shared that he felt prices were “getting out of hand”, whilst quantitative data revealed that 35% of respondents felt their finances were a barrier in seeking support.

Key stats:

  • 46% of respondents consider themselves to have a mental health condition
  • 54% have never had professional counselling or therapy
  • 24% have missed counselling sessions due to no longer being able to afford them
  • 59% shared that the cost-of-living crisis is having a poor affect on their mental health.

The social cost

Spending quality time with people you care about is good for the soul. Humans are social creatures, and we thrive on interaction. However, when social hubs (such as cinemas, bars and restaurants) become unaffordable, the cost becomes more than just financial. Our data found that money concerns are preventing Gen Z from engaging in activities that are known to boost positive mental well-being (such as eating out and exercising).

Key stats

  • 57% of Gen Z shared concerns about being able to afford to go out with friends during the summer holidays
  • 80% are cutting down on eating out
  • 29% have cancelled their gym memberships.

(Voxburner user survey, 2022)

What role do brands have to play here?

Whilst brands and employers (sadly) can’t do much about the cost-of-living crisis, there are ways they can work to mediate the effect on young consumers. One of the first steps to this is ensuring the internal audience (aka the workplace) of a brand is supported and prioritised.

One example of this is the retailer John Lewis, who announced they would be providing free meals for staff during breaks.

Equally, brands should leverage their industry knowledge and use it to help those who are struggling. Banking giant HSBC offered customers and non-customers a free financial health check in 2022, with recommendations on how to improve poor money handling.

This is something we know is important for Gen Z, with 66% of Voxburner UK respondents sharing they wanted to improve their financial literacy as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.

Finally, brands should use the cost-of-living crisis to show their commitment to their brand promise – be clear on why you exist, what you offer and how you’re helping your consumer base in its time of need. A prevalent example of this is supermarket chain Iceland.

Not only does Iceland have excellent internal mental health initiatives (as we discuss in the report), it has also become one of the most committed chains to lessening the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on cooking at home.

In 2022, the brand launched a series of free workshops with energy firm Utilita, designed to help consumers save over £600 a year.

The supermarket chain has also promised to provide information about the cheapest way to prepare foods (eg, microwaving rather than oven cooking) on its packaging, as part of its Shop Smart, Cook Savvy campaign.

The teaser report of Breaking Point: Gen Z’s Mental Health Crisis is now available for free. For the full report, sign up to our exclusive content platform, Voxburner+ for the latest Gen Z insights.


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