Discussing Anxiety Throughout the Generations (2022) (We all experience it, so let’s talk about it)

Let’s face it: anxiety is real, can be debilitating, and on top of that, it’s an incredibly nuanced concept…for everyone. Admittedly, the stressors and pressures the various generations face could not be more different, but one thing remains; mental health is a topic that everyone can benefit from discussing. Anxiety is much more common than we may think, and generational perspectives on mental health have widely shifted to fit the times.

In this guide, we’ll cover how the generations have traditionally viewed anxiety and mental health, the tools they have been equipped with to deal with this hurdle, as well as a larger discussion regarding ideas to promote wellness and adequate mental health. The TL;DR is this: anxiety is normal, anxiety does not discriminate based on age, and further, working through these issues requires teamwork and open-mindedness from all generations involved.

What are your initial thoughts on this broad topic? Have you experienced anxiety, and if so, how does your particular generation discuss it (if at all)? How do you hope the mental health conversation shifts in coming years? Be sure to leave a comment, and while you’re here, subscribe to our award-winning newsletter for more open conversations that aim to connect the generations through understanding. Let’s dive in!


Anxiety. What is it?

The Mayo Clinic defines anxiety as “intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks)”. (Mayo Clinic, 2018)

These thoughts and feelings come and go as they please, and tend to have serious impacts on an individual’s physical well being, too. Cue extreme sweating, trembling, elevated heart rate, and more. It’s not fun, nor is it easily brushed-off.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is by far the most common of the subcategories of “anxiety” as a whole. Worrisome thoughts flood the brain, even when dealing with the most routine, mundane tasks. It is estimated that nearly 6.8 million adults experience GAD, which turns out to be about 3.1% of the United States population. Now that we know how far-reaching this issue is, let’s break it down.


Baby Boomers and Anxiety

Born in an era of economic prosperity and raised with a “pick yourself up from the bootstraps” mentality, Baby Boomers’ discussions surrounding anxiety and mental health with their family, friends, or physicians were quite limited as they grew up…if they even existed at all. Toughness and grit were two words commonly used to describe those who identify as Boomers, and the mere idea of being “anxious” was viewed as a weakness (as opposed to a true chemical disorder that, in reality, was concurrently being experienced by millions).

The anxieties experienced by Baby Boomers are unique. While this generation may not have had to directly endure inflated numbers for a college education or the down payment of a home, shifting characteristics of what it means to live, work and eventually retire have caused unexpected stress for people who never thought they would have to deal with this at all. So how are Baby Boomers dealing with this new challenge today?

Primarily, this generation is becoming more amenable to therapy and speaking with their loved ones about these issues. The generation still remains the most likely to delay mental health care, but with the help of more publicized de-stigmatization regarding mental health, those statistics are changing…not to mention the younger generations are all-in for expanding mental healthcare access and support. In short, Baby Boomers gravitate toward candid conversations with their younger counterparts to navigate the unique set of challenges they face as they progress through life.


Gen X and Anxiety

Generation X includes those who were born between 1965 and 1980, and like the Boomers, experienced a relatively prosperous upbringing with regard to finances and opportunity. Now, however, this generation is experiencing anxiety and stress at record high levels as compared to thirty years ago.

Why? Well, the anxieties have been born largely from job insecurities and what we will call “Middle Child Syndrome”. These individuals are making less money than their parents did but more money than their Millennial/Gen Z children, and yet, they still face hardships when it comes to paying medical bills, mortgage payments, or affording to do the things they truly love to do. What doesn’t help is the crossroads between their position in the world and the rapid growth of technology; they’re semi-comfortable with new and innovative trends in tech, but they still worry about the future of automation and their jobs potentially becoming obsolete.

The upside to this “Middle Child” phenomenon is that Gen X is deeply in-tune with the happenings of the generation that precedes and succeeds them. As parents of Z-llennials, they may have been more accustomed to discussions related to mental health. Statistically speaking, Gen X’ers are slightly less likely to turn to therapy, but are incredibly receptive to those closest to them. They call Millennials the “Therapy Generation”, so it is especially important to share your experiences with your Gen X peers!


Z-llennials and Anxiety

Last but not least, the Z-llennials. It comes as no surprise that this destigmatizing hybrid-generation is the quickest to discuss the topic of anxiety and also the quickest to address it. Born in the last forty(ish) years, Z-llennials have quickly been dubbed one of the most anxious generations yet (with a global pandemic, a handful of housing crises, crippling student debt and an over-exaggerated sense of connectedness on the internet all in their most formative years…can you blame them?).

The characteristics of GAD and other specific forms of anxiety have been publicized and educated on throughout this generation’s lives. Awareness campaigns for psychological disorders spring up on campuses yearly and there is absolutely no shame in asking Z-llennial employers for a “mental health day”. This is largely because many families began discussing mental health as it began to lose its negative connotation in the 90’s and early 2000’s. As a result, Z-llennials don’t think twice about working through their problems with others and encouraging everyone around them to do the same, too.

Because they are intentional about seeking help with their struggles with anxiety and have a general plan of action, it is often helpful to encourage Z-llennials to investigate the root of their struggles. Oftentimes, the driving factor for these feelings of worry and hopelessness is the very thing that defines their generation: social media and the seemingly unlimited access to information. Encouraging your Z-llennial loved ones to put the phone down, partake in social media cleanses or choose to look at content that will uplift rather than discourage is always a great strategy for anxiety alleviation.



Understanding and empathizing with the diverse community you interact with on a daily basis is something we all strive to do. By stepping back and evaluating the issue of anxiety – and how it affects the generations in massively different ways – we can begin to help each other more effectively. Anxiety is a difficult topic for some, but it should never be stigmatized or frowned upon. We’re all in this together! What are your thoughts after reading this guide? How will you address anxiety in your own personal life through a generational lens?


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