Published on: May 6, 2019
by Women’s Brain Health Initiative:
It was a delicious antidote to a brutally cold winter night in downtown Toronto. A roomful of millennials (those born between the years 1984 and 2000) gathered to hear about fine food and healthy eating from one of the nation’s most celebrated chefs and restaurateurs, Michael Bonacini. The occasion was one of Women’s Brain Health Initiative’s Engaging Millennial Minds® events, designed to raise awareness amongst those under the age of 40 about the value of making positive lifestyle choices that can significantly improve one’s odds of staying brain healthy longer.
The subject matter was timely and pertinent. Numerous studies have found that millennials are more stressed, more anxious, and more prone to mental health problems than any other age cohort.
As the attendees mingled before the event, sipping wine and snacking on delectable hors d’oeuvres, several millennials told Mind Over Matter® that they believe the studies are true.
Laura, a neuroscience researcher, nodded her head when asked about millennial stress. “I think it’s competition within your workplace, with job searches, with finances, and it’s all heightened through social media,” she said.
Aseel, a financial planner who is currently completing a master’s degree in psychotherapy, said she feels it too. “Today’s Thursday, and I haven’t been home before 9 or 10 o’clock this week. I’m constantly doing activities after work and they’re all in alignment with the quest of finding what I want to fully engage with,” she said.
Erin, who works in sales, cited the omnipresence of technology and social media in our lives “I think we’re being inundated with a lot of information from a ton of different avenues and it can be stressful to break that down and figure out what you should be taking in and what you should be leaving behind,” she said.
In its most recent Monitor survey on adult mental health and substance use (released in January 2019), Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) noted that
Millennials are more likely than other age groups to report problematic use of alcohol, cannabis use, and e-cigarette use, as well as to have significantly higher reports of suicidal ideation, frequent mental distress days, and psychological distress.
“These multiple indicators of problematic and high-risk behaviours occur at a time when these young people are charting their lives, finding careers, and starting families,” said Dr. Sanjeev Sockalingam, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and Vice President of Education at CAMH. “These data point to the high levels of stress during this stage in life and the importance of recognizing these risks and responding to them in a timely manner.”
In an interview with Mind Over Matter®, Dr. Sockalingam described millennials as a “high-risk group”, citing several stressors such as transitioning from home to school to the work force.
“It’s often a key time in developing identity, navigating whether they’re leaving home, and relationships are often continuing to evolve during this time. We see that finances can be a concern, pressures related to education and changes in their peer groups with all of these transitions as well,” he continued.
Dr. Sockalingam also commented on the role of social media, noting that an increasing number of individuals are attending crisis services complaining of distress because of online conversations that are shaming, intimidating, or full of conflict. Dr. Sockalingam was wary, however, of blaming the much-discussed “fear of missing out” (FOMO) phenomenon, in which individuals experience anxiety at the thought of not being included in an event or not being “in the know.” FOMO is typically experienced by overly active social media users, and has been linked with degraded mood levels and decreased satisfaction with one’s life. These feelings can then contribute to symptoms of depression. To date, though, there has been little clinical research on this phenomenon, and so its impacts remain primarily anecdotal.
The CAMH Monitor survey adds to the growing body of evidence of millennial stress. In 2017, an Ipsos poll for Global News found that 63% of Canadian millennials are at “high risk” for mental health issues, up from 56% in 2016 and 53% in 2015. Gen-Xers (those born between the mid 1960s and early 1980s) were the second most-stressed demographic, followed by the baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964).
There are similar findings in the United States. The American Psychiatric Association surveyed more than 1000 adults in 2018 and found that millennials were the most anxious of the demographic groups (although baby boomers had the largest year-over-year increase in anxiety levels).
The research also indicates that, amongst millennials, women are more stressed than men.
In a recent poll commissioned by Sanity & Self (a wellness app for women launched in July 2018), approximately 1,500 American men and women were asked to rate their stress on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most stressed. On average, the women reported their stress level was 3.03, compared with 2.66 for the men. Millennial women reported the highest levels of stress at 3.4, and were also more likely to experience insomnia multiple times a week due to stress, as well as more likely to feel alone and isolated (and to experience anxiety about those feelings of loneliness).
On a positive note, though, millennials are consistently more likely to seek help for their stress than any other demographic group, with women more willing to speak with a therapist than men.
Dr. Sockalingam of CAMH believes that society’s improved awareness of mental health has not only reduced the stigma, but has also made individuals more willing to talk about their issues and seek care from health professionals.
At CAMH, employees are offered a variety of mental health-related activities to help combat stress and anxiety, including access to gyms, yoga, and mindfulness programs. “There are treatments available, as well as methods of self-care – sleep, good diet, exercise – all things that are more preventative in the long run,” said Dr. Sockalingam.
Research has indicated that eating nutritious foods can go a long way toward achieving a mentally-healthy lifestyle. When asked about his favourite recipe, Michael Bonacini replied “a simple mushroom soup” – a low-stress, comforting concoction. On that cold winter night at the recent Engaging Millennial Minds® event, listening to Bonacini discuss his passion for food was a pleasant release for all present. Indeed, when he and his colleague, chef Jeremy Korten, demonstrated how to make a quiche and seasonal salad of root vegetables, the only anxiety felt in the room was the tension of waiting for the opportunity to taste their creations.
Source: MIND OVER MATTER V8
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