Millennials are eating better and exercising more, but their mental health is getting worse. Find out how they compare to other generations.

Why millennials need to self-care more than other generations

Learning that millennials are off to a pretty rough economic start compared to previous generations is not exactly news to us.

It seems the millennials are a generation doomed by financial insecurities -- from student loans to mortgages (if you’re lucky enough to have one that is!) The list goes on, and as we are trying our best to get ahead, we seem to struggle to get things right.

The millennial paradox

While some people describe us as lazy, entitled and narcissistic, (thanks guys - that’s really motivating), research has found that this view couldn’t be further away from the truth. In fact, 94% of all young adults are committed to making personal improvements, compared to 84% of Boomers and 81% of Gen Xers.

Young Aussies today also appear to be getting healthier. Data from Medibank Better Health Index shows Millennials are not only decreasing the amount of fast food and sugary treats they eat, they’re also consuming a lot less alcohol than their parents generation. Smoking has also dropped significantly, with only 13% of millennials smoking today.

But despite these healthy habits - new research has found that depression and anxiety have hit an all time high. According to new data from Medibank Better Health Index the percentage of young Aussies affected by anxiety and panic attacks has nearly doubled over the last few years, with depression increasing by nearly 30% since 2009.

So what’s to blame?

There could be many reasons to why young Aussies are feeling more anxious and depressed than other generations, but the most obvious factors seem to be work related. Today’s 20-somethings enter the workforce in an era of intense competition. While millennials have the highest rate of tertiary education in Australia, they’re also the ones suffering the highest from graduate unemployment. This means more of us are working part-time or in casual or contract positions - regularly juggling multiple jobs and longer hours than any other generation.

Ways to look after yourself

  1. Set the right kind of goals
    There is nothing wrong with being ambitious, but just be mindful of the type of goals you are setting. Try to shift your goals to intrinsic motivations rather than external values like money, possessions and social status. A good way to think about it is in relation to how you feel. For example, you could say “I want to feel close to people” or “I want to feel like my life has meaning” rather than “I want to be rich”. People who set intrinsic goals tend to be happier and calmer, whereas people who value extrinsic goals can run a higher risk of anxiety and depression.
  2. Get by with a little help from friends
    The support offered by a caring friend or family member can provide an invaluable buffer against the effects of stress, anxiety and depression. Meaningful relationships, whether socially or in a work context, can contribute to a longer, healthier and happier life.
  3. Calm your busy mind with yoga and meditation
    Many yoga devotees will tell you how a session of yoga leaves you feeling calm and positive, with a sense of being able to cope with whatever life has to throw at you. Part of yoga’s effectiveness comes from its proven ability to release tension and lower cortisol levels - a hormone often used as a marker for stress. While yoga will help you get in touch with your body, meditation will help you get in touch with your mind.
4. Connect with nature Getting outside is one one of the most reliable ways to boost to your mental and physical well-being, and can decrease both your heart rate and cortisol levels. It can also be great for your professional life, as it helps [sharpen your thinking, and increase creativity and problem solving.]( And if you think you are too busy to go outside, even [the view of nature]( out a window is associated with lower stress and higher job satisfaction.

If you’re feeling distressed, support is available for anyone by phoning Lifeline on 13 11 14; or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.