It’s no secret that today’s young adults have it hard, financially-speaking. For the first time in American history, Millennials are posed to be the first generation to earn less and have less social status than their parents. Between a challenging housing market, skyrocketing rent prices, inflation outpacing earning, and the general generational malaise caused by emotional adversaries like extreme partisanship and global warming, it’s no wonder that about 40% of Millennials have a diagnosable mental health challenge and almost 60% report symptoms of anxiety and depression. Over half– 53%– of Millennials say their anxiety keeps them up at night at least once a month.
One of the biggest worries that Millennials have is money. Here’s why financial issues are one of the driving causes of Millennial depression.
Why Are Millennials Struggling Financially?
Millennials have encountered a series of economic obstacles that have set them apart from previous generations. These challenges include student loan debt, stagnant wages, the rising cost of living, shifting job market, and more.
Student Loan Debt
A substantial number of millennials have pursued higher education, often financed through loans. The burden of student loan debt has not only delayed major life milestones like homeownership and starting a family but has also led to overwhelming financial stress.
While the cost of living has steadily increased, wages have largely remained stagnant, leaving millennials struggling to keep up with everyday expenses. There is not a single place in the country where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford housing– which was the whole point of introducing minimum wage in the first place.
Rising Cost of Living
Housing, healthcare, and childcare costs have risen significantly, making it difficult for millennials to save and invest for the future. In particular, the skyrocketing housing costs have made homeownership increasingly unattainable for many millennials, contributing to feelings of insecurity and uncertainty about the future.
Job Market Instability
The gig economy and precarious employment opportunities have made it challenging for millennials to secure stable jobs with benefits, further eroding their financial security.
Societal and Systemic Factors
To understand the full scope of the issue, it is essential to recognize the role of societal and systemic factors in millennials’ financial struggles and depression. This isn’t a case of Millennials simply feeling sorry for themselves; these are real social issues that nobody in charge seems willing to address.
Income inequality has increased over the past few decades, making it more difficult for millennials to attain financial security. The wealthy continue to accumulate wealth while many Millennials face stagnant incomes.
Inadequate Social Safety Nets
The lack of a robust social safety net in the United States leaves Millennials vulnerable to financial crises, with limited support in times of need. A whopping 93% of Millennials avoid scheduling regular doctors’ appoints, even with insurance, because health insurance is no guarantee against medical debt.
The high cost of education and the emphasis on obtaining a degree as a path to success have led many millennials into student loan debt, even if their chosen careers do not provide adequate financial rewards. Degree inflation means that you can’t get most jobs without a bachelor’s degree, and Millennials as a group carry $482.4 billion in student loan debt alone.
The Link Between Financial Insecurity and Depression
As if all of that weren’t enough, there’s a strong link between financial insecurity and depression.
People with depression and debt are 4.2 times more likely to still have depression 18 months later than people without financial difficulty. According to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute in the UK, people with anxiety and depression have a median gross annual income of £8,400 (or $10,195 in USD) less than that of people without those conditions.
Constant financial stress and anxiety about making ends meet can be a primary trigger for depression among millennials. The uncertainty that comes with financial instability can lead to chronic stress, which has a direct physiological impact on the body. Prolonged stress can lead to the release of stress hormones like cortisol, affecting brain function and increasing the risk of developing depressive symptoms. The relentless pressure of managing bills, debt, and day-to-day expenses can overwhelm individuals, making it difficult for them to find respite from their worries.
While the link between financial issues and depression is evident, access to mental healthcare remains a considerable barrier for millennials. Many face exorbitant costs associated with therapy sessions and medication, deterring them from seeking help when they need it most. The financial burden of mental healthcare can exacerbate the emotional distress, creating a vicious cycle where those who need assistance the most are unable to access it.
If you’re a Millennial and you’re struggling with your mental health due to financial stress, reach out to the therapy team at Love Heal Grow. Each therapist offers 1-2 sliding scale slots; email your desired therapist directly for information and availability. Your mental health is important, and a therapist can help you cope with the stress and anxiety of your financial worries.