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Over half of Gen Z in Asia are struggling mentally

Over half of Gen Z in Asia are struggling mentally


Companies that provide support for mind health are 2.5 times more likely to have employees who say they are 'flourishing'.

Gen Z, i.e. those aged 18 to 24, appear to be hit harder mentally than other age groups by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest findings from the annual AXA Study of Mind Health and Wellbeing 2023.

Surveying a total of 30,000 respondents across 16 countries and territories in Europe, Asia and the Americas in September, October and November 2022, the study revealed that more than half of Gen Z globally (54%) and in Asia (51%) are experiencing poor mental health.

Taking a deeper look, Gen Z also has the highest proportion of those struggling mentally (associated with emotional stress and psychosocial impairment) at 18% globally and 14% in Asia, more than any other age group. Only 13% of Gen Z globally say they are flourishing at the pinnacle of mind health, with the proportion being 15% in Asia, both the lowest across all age groups. This makes 18-24 the only age group globally that has more people struggling than flourishing.

Several potential threats to Gen Z’s mind health include:

  • uncertainty about the future (69% in Asia vs 59% globally)
  • lack of job-skill fit (56% vs 64% globally)
  • struggling to separate work life and non-work life (49% vs 39% globally)
  • finding it hard to keep up with the pace of change at work (47% vs 38% globally)

Among the above challenges, the study highlighted that having the right job-skill fit has a very strong correlation with mental wellbeing, as those equipped with the right job skills are 2.5 times more likely to perform their best at work.

Gen Z work well under stress but are also most likely to resign

While Gen Z show a greater ability to work under stress – a higher percentage of Gen Z (42%) in Asia who are struggling believe they can be relied upon to do their best when compared with other age groups – they also have the highest percentage of people who intend to resign in the next 12 months (21%).

However, those Gen Z who are flourishing are less likely to resign, with the rate being only 16%. This underscores the importance of effectively enabling positive mental health in supporting employee retention.

Workplace mental health support plays a vital role

Support for mental health in the workplace has risen to the agenda during the pandemic. The research revealed that in Asia, companies that provide mind health support are 2.5 times more likely to have employees that are flourishing.

In particular, while one in four Gen Z employees who feel they are getting good mental health support at work are flourishing, the rate is only one in 100 among those that do not see such support, which is the biggest difference among all age groups.

Gordon Watson, CEO of AXA Asia and Africa said while mind health has rightly attracted greater attention in the wake of the pandemic’s disruption on our lives, these findings emphasise that the next generation of talent across Asia are facing severe challenges. "Companies need to examine how they can make a tangible difference with support relevant to the needs of their Gen Z employees, not only to help with productivity and retention, but to tackle this urgent issue affecting societies across the region," he stressed.

Overall people in Asia are getting mentally healthier

Here are some silver linings - the research found that the proportion of people flourishing in Asia climbed from 19% to 22%, with Asia seeing a bigger rise than the global average. By contrast, the proportion of those struggling in Asia fell to 12%, a year-on-year decrease of 2%. In addition, more than one-third (36%) of respondents globally agreed that stigma related to mental health is declining, compared to 31% last year.

The findings showed that 25% of people globally are flourishing, with Thailand (37%), a new entrant this year, topping the list and Italy (18%) showing the lowest level.

Amid a closer look at Asian countries and territories in the survey, the Philippines had the largest proportion globally of people getting by at 39%, followed by Hong Kong at 37%. Across the region, the largest proportion of languishing and struggling were both in Japan, at 31% and 14% respectively.

How Hong Kong fares in mental health

Looking into Hong Kong particularly, a slight improvement in mind health was seen in the city, with 20% of respondents claiming that they are flourishing, an increase of 3% year-on-year, from 17% in 2022. A total of 70% of the respondents were employed, but only 17% of those said they are flourishing at the workplace.

Among the 2,336 people surveyed in Hong Kong, 72% have experienced moderate to extremely severe stress in the past 12 months. However, the majority (61%) chose to self-manage the symptoms of stress or to not manage them at all, while only 39% sought professional or other help.

Having long working hours and experiencing work stress are common in Hong Kong. Only 53% of the respondents felt that they have control over their workload and 37% were able to strike a work-life balance. There is clearly room for improvement in workplace wellbeing.

As such, the study has identified six factors that are key to promoting mental wellbeing in the workplace:

Mental health support by employers: Employees who work at companies that provide mental health support are more productive and are 3.5 times more likely to be flourishing than those without access to support.

Hybrid work mode: Two in five (43%) respondents said that there is no difference in productivity between working at home and the office, while 24% are likely to be flourishing if they are working in hybrid mode, compared to those who work exclusively from the office (17%). The ability to be flexible in work location would provide employees with a sense of belonging and inclusion.

Control over workload: If employees feel they have sufficient control over their workload, their likelihood of flourishing would increase from 4% to 26%.

Strong skill or job matching: Employees’ likelihood of flourishing increases from 3% to 26% if their skills match the work they are being asked to do.

Clear goals and expectations: If employers set clear goals and expectations, the likelihood of employees flourishing increases from 6% to 25%.

Skill development support: Employees working for companies which support employees to develop skills and support career progression are 7.5 times more likely to be flourishing.

If all these six workplace factors are implemented, the likelihood of flourishing for Hong Kong employees would increase from 17% to 52%, indicating that employees are 3 times more likely to be flourishing.

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Image / Shutterstock

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