Jun 29, 2023 - Health

Gen Z’s mental health divide

Illustration of the colors of the LGBTQ Pride flag projected over the silhouette of a teenager.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Older members of Gen Z who are lesbian, gay or bisexual are more anxious and less happy than their straight counterparts, per a Gallup-Walton Family Foundation American Youth Survey released Thursday.

Why it matters: Studies have shown that the cohort born between the late 1990s and early 2010s is experiencing a sustained decline in mental health, but the poll indicates stigma and harassment is placing an extra burden on lesbian, gay and bisexual members.

  • That could hinder their ability to go to college or launch careers, researchers wrote.

By the numbers: The survey of more than 800 people ages 18 to 25, conducted from April 24 to May 8, found that most straight adults rate their emotional well-being as "excellent" or "good," but only 38% of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults say the same.

  • More than half of LGB adults reported having fair or poor physical health compared to 31% of straight Gen Zers.
  • 71% of LGB adults surveyed said they experienced anxiety the prior day compared to 52% of their straight peers.

State of play: The Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. earlier this month in response to an "unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping state houses this year."

  • The NAACP in May issued a travel advisory for Florida for Black Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • There's also a book-banning movement targeting, in part, books with LGBTQ themes.

What they're saying: Discrimination and harassment can also occur among friends, at work, in school and with family, said lead Gallup researcher Stephanie Marken.

  • "It's hard to be physically healthy and well if you're experiencing high levels of anxiety, stress, loneliness, [and] sadness on a day-to-day basis," Marken told Axios.

Of note: Transgender adults were not included in these polling results, but the record-breaking number of anti-trans health care bills has led to record high suicide risk among trans youth.

The bottom line: "This is something that's been coming for quite a while," Marken told Axios. "Unfortunately, it's reached a crescendo."

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