Millennials are more at risk for addiction than previous generations, due to the fundamentally different environment they were raised in and now live in. Financial stress, decreased emotional support and weakening social connections have all contributed to a different way of life for millennials compared to their parents.
Previous generations didn’t have to grapple with social media and smartphones in their youth. This challenging economic and emotional landscape continues to adversely influence millennials’ life experiences, making them more at risk for addiction.
Millennials’ Risk for Addiction
Due to financial stress, lack of emotional support and weakening social connections, millennials are at a higher risk for addiction than previous generations who didn’t experience this combination of factors. These adverse factors can lead to mental health issues. Mental health issues have a strong correlation with substance abuse. Many millennials who suffer from mental health issues may self-medicate with alcohol or illicit substances, leading to addiction.
Many millennials struggle to find a job that can support them in an economy fraught with high living costs while they try to pay off student debt. A Higher Education Research Institute study reported that the percentage of students using loans to help pay for college has been and continues to remain high in recent years.1
These financial pressures can be a huge source of stress for young people. Many want to venture out on their own and are finding it difficult to do so. One study by the American Psychological Association reported that millennials and Gen Xers—people born early 1960s to mid-1970s—reported higher levels of stress about money compared to Americans overall.2
Financial stress can lead to unhealthy behaviors for millennials, which increases their risk for addiction. The APA study found that millennials who reported stress about money are more likely to engage in sedentary or unhealthy behaviors to deal with the stress. These millennials watch television or movies for more than a few hours every day, surf the web more, take naps or sleep more, as well as eat, drink alcohol, or smoke to cope with stress.
Lack of Emotional Support
Millennials are at a greater risk for addiction due to the high rates of reported lack of emotional support. The APA survey stated that 25 percent of millennials say they do not have sufficient emotional support. Thirty-four percent of millennials said they felt a sense of loneliness or isolation because of stress in the past month, compared with 24 percent of Americans overall.
Fewer Social Connections
Social media and the internet in general have created an environment where something is going on 24/7. As millennials rush to keep up with the flow of information and online relationships, a syndrome known as the “fear of missing out” often develops.3
FOMO can be seen throughout our society on a massive scale. People text while driving, because the chance of a social connection is more important than safe driving. They interrupt one call to take another, even when they don’t know who’s calling in. Many millennials will interrupt an in-person conversation to make sure whatever is going on elsewhere isn’t better. This all adds up to increased emotional and social isolation.
Getting Help Through Treatment
Addiction recovery programs that cater to millennials can help those struggling with substance abuse to enter recovery. Millennial addiction treatment addresses stress and teaches clients how to increase emotional and social connections.