Generation X doesn’t understand Generation Y, who doesn’t understand Generation Z. Every generation have their own quirks and struggles, but the anxieties and concerns of young people in 2021 is a minefield like no other.

True, there is always a unique set of challenges that each generation have to deal with. However, remember, approximately 8.2 million of South Africa’s young people aged 15 to 34 were not employed, educated, or trained before the pandemic, and these challenges have since been exacerbated.

A survey done by the University of Cape Town shows that 60% of young people aged between 18 and 34 are “very worried” and uncertain about their future. Research shows how the pandemic has increased anxiety and despair about the future as well as a devastating loss of hope amongst young people who now feel their lives are on hold. To them, life feels limited right now.

Covid-19 has impacted young people’s ability to socialize, and they are turning to social media, rather than to reality. Not being able to go out and do the normal things that young people do - clubs, parties pubs, etc. -  leave them with only the internet for company. Thing is, friends, family and influencers that our young people follow on social media are all likely to be posting the highlights of their lives, rather than the lockdown realities. And this ultimately leads to a life of “compare and despair”. Young people at this point in their lives are on a journey of self-discovery, and for them to be constantly peering into the digital world of unrealistic standards are brutal.

Technology can be an amazing tool, however there are also concerns about how it impacts self-perception. Young people are struggling more with their interpersonal relationships than any previous generation and health experts fear that we are now on the verge of a mental health crises. Data shows that mental health conditions have increased at an alarming rate with reports of self-harm, sleep problems and eating disorders rising sharply since the start of the pandemic. It is estimated that 1.5 million young people will need new, or additional mental health support, as a direct consequence of the pandemic.

Many have pointed to Millennials and Generation Z’s as being uniquely resistant to “growing up”. But here’s the thing, taking more time to come of age is not due to a lack of stamina or motivation, delayed adulthood is an expected response to socio-economic conditions. Housing is less affordable and it’s common to have temporary jobs when living in uncertainly; this makes planning for the future harder. When young adults take longer to achieve the markers of adulthood, it is not that something has changed about them, it is that the world has changed.

Young South Africans constitute almost a third of our population, they are our future and have been enormously let down by poor quality education, persistent inequality, poverty and unemployment.

As the world grapples with unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, let’s do more to support our young leaders and create spaces where they are valued and supported to achieve their goals.


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.