How does Gen Z see its place in the working world? With trepidation.

With so much instability in the world, in society, in politics and in the workplace, it is no wonder that the youth of today are feeling trepidation.

It is fair to say that youth can be an exhilarating time but also one of high anxiety, as young people struggle to establish themselves economically and find their place in society. While each generation may encounter struggles and doubts as they join the workforce, Generation Z has entered the working world during a global pandemic and amid concerns over rising inflation rates, recession fears, geopolitical conflicts, and climate change.

In a recent report from McKinsey, who surveyed 25,062 Americans which included 1,763 respondents in the Gen Z age range of 18 to 24, “Gen Z’s employment patterns are less stable, and that worries them. Slightly more than half of the 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed are employed, but they have different experiences than workers of other ages. To start, they are more likely to be working multiple jobs (a quarter, compared with 16 percent of all workers) and are more likely to be doing independent work (slightly more than half, compared with 36 percent). While a portion of young people do independent work because they enjoy the work (28 percent) or because of the autonomy and flexibility it offers (24 percent), a majority would prefer work as a permanent or noncontract employee (56 percent).”

Gen Z is less financially secure: 45 percent are concerned about the stability of their employment (compared with 40 percent of all respondents) and are less likely than other respondents to report being able to cover living expenses for more than two months if faced with job loss. Gen Z is also more likely to report that the pay they receive does not allow for a good quality of life.

Gen Z reports remarkably high rates of mental-health struggles. One of the most notable findings of the survey is that 55 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds report having received a diagnosis and/or treatment for a mental illness. Respondents aged 55 to 64 years old, with decades more time to have received a diagnosis or gone into treatment, report this is the case 31 percent of the time.

Despite reporting higher levels of job insecurity and financial instability and higher rates of emotional distress and obstacles to working effectively, Gen Z’s view of economic opportunity is more optimistic than that of Gen X and baby boomers.

Worrying about the mindset of the young has been popular at least since the times of Aristotle and Socrates and likely long before that. Some of Gen Z’s reported distress will sound familiar to all who have lived through the apprehension and doubt of launching themselves into economic independence. However, the high rates of reported mental-health challenges and other major obstacles to effective work that emerged from this research invite reflection. Gen Z respondents report alarming levels of negativity about themselves, their confidence in the future, and their ability to find contentment in life.

While Gen Z is not the only generation facing mental-health challenges, their rates of distress may give employers, educators, and public-health leaders pause. These stakeholders may want to consider the sentiment of this emerging generation as they plan for the future. Employers who want to win their fair share of talent from all age groups in the workforce can use these insights to target their support for this critical group.”