Gen-Y feels the stress

2013-03-17 10:00

Money, relationships, job security and crime are keeping a young generation awake at night.

Young South Africans are out of their minds with worry.

The nation’s twenty- and thirtysomething-year-olds are stressed because they don’t have enough money, their intimate relationships don’t work out, and job security and fear about crime keep them awake at night.

They’re also battling with making the transition from rural to urban areas.

The good – or maybe just comforting – news is that they’re not alone.

New research conducted in the US by the American Psychological Association has found that “millennials” – the generation born between 1979 and early 2000 – are stressed about unemployment, money, relationships and job stability.

The yearly survey also revealed that millennials are much more stressed than other generations in the US. That means they are bigger worry warts than Generation X (34- to 47-year-olds), Baby-Boomers (48- to 66-year-olds) and Matures (67- and older).

Although no comparative research has been done in South Africa, psychologists believe young South Africans are battling the same issues and could also be more highly strung than the country’s older generations.

Dr Mzikazi Nduna, a senior lecturer of psychology at Wits University, said each generation of young people faced different challenges and their exposure to stress was different.

She explained: “Today’s youth are faced with much more choice than their parents, including educational choices, employment opportunities, making decisions about finance and navigating their freedom of choice in relation to their sexuality.

“Previously, all these choices were limited. We know that with more choice comes more stress around decision making and living with the consequences of one’s decisions.”

Dr Martjie van Zyl, a private clinical psychologist based in Johannesburg, agreed.

“Young people of today live in a fast-paced world. The increasing demands of their work and personal life is placing immense pressure on them, and it is expected that they should be more stressed than those that came before them.”

About 40% of the millennials interviewed for the US study revealed they had experienced increased stress in the past few years.

Of those, 76% reported to have been stressed more by work and money than any other thing, while more than half of them said that stress had kept them up at night.

This was also the case with young people who spoke to City Press this week.

Winnie Mphago (32), a single mother from Midrand in Joburg who was recently retrenched, said work and money worries gave her sleepless nights.

“I have no job and it doesn’t look like I will get one soon because companies are seemingly not hiring,” she said.

“On top of that, I am a single parent with little support structure, yet I have to ensure my son eats and goes to school in the face of the rising cost of living.”

Another woman (30), who works at a marketing company, echoed Mphago’s sentiments.

“I worry about the state of finances every day because my salary is not enough to cover my expenses. I have tried to find a better-paying job, with no luck, and this is stressing the hell out of me.”

Van Zyl said although South African and American youths were living different lives, it would be expected that people of the same age group would “share common challenges, like unemployment and not having enough money because of the recent economic crisis”.

On top of that though, young South Africans have crime and social transition to worry about.

Nduna, who has researched social transition, said: “Young people from rural communities are moving in numbers to big cities and this move is not without its problems.

“Some find that, when they arrive in the cities, life is not as easy as they thought. There is no guaranteed employment and others feel detached from their social networks of relatives, friends and neighbours because urban spaces are not friendly, and there is less social support.”

Mphago, who lived in Limpopo before moving to Johannesburg in 2007, agreed.

“It’s difficult to find people who will listen and genuinely understand your problems in urban areas.

“Everybody is stressed out about their problems and they have no time for other people’s problems,” she said.

Superstressed: Inside the

mind of young South Africans

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