Doctors explain why younger generations are struggling with mental health during COVID-19 pandemic

One Bay Area doctor says, 'The mental health problems among young people have almost tripled' during the pandemic.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As people cope with the coronavirus pandemic in their own ways, a trend is emerging with one generation acknowledging it's affecting their mental health.

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A look at the impact of COVID-19 is revealing a generational split in how people are coping. The vast majority of COVID-19 deaths have been among seniors, yet a national survey conducted by Edward Jones and Age Wave indicates twice as many young people say they're not coping well with the pandemic compared to their elders.

24 percent of all Gen Z and millennials verse 12 percent of boomers and just five percent of the so-called silent generation above age 75 or 80.

Bay Area psychologist and gerontologist Ken Dychtwald interprets the reason.

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"The uncertainty of a job path, the uncertainty of the gig economy, flying through your life without certain benefits, the absence of savings," he said.

Seniors said they're more worried about Alzheimer's than getting infected with COVID-19.

Retired teacher Tom Blank noted, "I think COVID-19 has forced people to just stop and take a look at what's important."

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Those in their teens through their 30's say the pandemic has caused a mental health decline: 37 percent among Gen Z, 27 percent of millennials but only 15 percent of boomers and eight percent of the silent generation.

"We don't realize that some of the most valuable assets you have within oneself is maturity, is perspective, a little bit of wisdom and most definitely resilience," said Dr. Dychtwald.

He points out resilience among seniors is a result of dealing with past crises and having time to plan for financial security. While social distancing might make it difficult, he senses a need for the youngest group to connect and to learn from retirees.

"They're kind of aching for real, authentic touch and connection. And they're struggling with that," he said. "The mental health problems among young people have almost tripled."

He says the pandemic is sounding a wake-up call for the young to prepare for future crises.

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