More than 7 in 10 Gen-Zers report facing high levels of mental distress

More than 7 in 10 Gen-Zers report symptoms of depression during pandemic, survey finds.

Economic and lifestyle impacts from COVID-19 are taking a severe mental toll on this group, according to research from Sandpiper Communications.

The results of the survey were based on 1,226 Gen Zs (aged 18 to 24 years) across Australia, China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Generation Z in Asia Pacific (APAC) struggle to talk about their mental health despite mounting pressures arising from the ongoing pandemic. It is reported that this group faces the highest levels of stress compared to other generations and was the most likely age group to report symptoms of depression. 

More than 7 in 10 Gen-Z adults surveyed said they experienced common symptoms of depression such as: feeling tired, doing nothing, having trouble thinking and concentrating and feeling very restless, lonely, miserable or unhappy.. 

Causes of stress

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“Youths are experiencing adulthood at a time when the future looks uncertain while older generations might have more perspective that enables them to cope with the changes”, according to the report.

The Gen Z group in Singapore reported that the top source of overwhelming stress was family pressures (63 per cent), followed by relationships with friends (46 per cent) and career pressures (42 per cent).

To put that in perspective, millennials (ages 24-41) ranked their stress level 5.6 out of 10, and Gen X (ages 42-55) said their stress was a 5.2 out of 10. The overall reported stress level for millennials is about 5.0.

For Gen-Z teens, ages 13 to 17, 51% said that the pandemic made it impossible to plan for the future, and 67% of Gen-Z adults in higher college said the same. 

Economic and lifestyle impacts

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Out of those who said social media had a positive impact on their mental health, almost 7 in 10 said this was because it helped them connect with family and friends.

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The influx of negative stories (61%) on social platforms is also the biggest reason Gen Z in APAC cite for believing social media access has negatively affected them. Additionally, of those who feel negatively, close to half (48%) across APAC say the lack of real connection with friends and loved ones has in fact worsened their mental health and wellbeing.

It is important that we understand how the pandemic is negatively affecting them and what opportunities exist for better communication and support. It is concerning that despite Gen Zs suffering increased mental health and wellbeing pressures during Covid-19, they still struggle to talk about these issues.

There are a few strategies that can help decrease anxiety and build emotional resilience in young people. For starters, giving young people outlets to talk about issues that are troubling them is important. It’s also crucial to remember that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, and we all may need more flexibility, space or support than usual.

Seek support if necessary

Stress on teenagers can be harmful to their health and wellbeing if it seems as though they have been enduring it for a long time. If your child has been showing signs of stress, we advise to look for professional or support groups. Have a chat with a family doctor, or consider giving your child an opportunity to talk things over with a counsellor. 

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What is the cost of conflict in the workplace?

Is your workplace often the center of conflict? Workplace conflict is unavoidable and more often, many workplace conflicts can seriously undermine organisations culture, employee relationships and overall quality of work. 

According to research from occupational health provider Health Assured, nearly 9 out of 10 (86%) workers regularly vent their anger and frustration at their co-workers. Conflict in the workplace caused by anger and frustration is more common than most people might think.

CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) found that “under half of employees (44%) experiencing conflict report that the conflict or difficult relationship has so far been fully or largely resolved.”

Conflict at workplace negatively affects our: 
  • Productivity and performance
  • Motivation
  • Commitment
  • Anxiety levels 
  • Mental health
  • Stress levels
  • Concentration levels
  • Engagement levels 


What happens when toxic behaviour and conflict issues moves online while working from home? 

Managers are often the first people to go to for issues of workplace conflict but toxic work environments are often created and exacerbated through leaders abusing their power. This can become an underlying cause of conflict and stress and if that’s the case, speaking with other supervisors you work with or escalating the issue to HR may be a better move. 

Manager expectations play a large role in setting work-life boundaries. A leader can create a toxic environment if they demand employees be online and available beyond agreed-upon working hours, like late into the evening or on weekends. Managers may also expect more from workers who no longer have to spend time commuting. 

Coronavirus: Asia not yet ready to work from home, SE Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times


While employee surveys can raise awareness of poor organisational culture, it’s ultimately up to senior leaders to heed their employees concerns and actually do something to improve on the issue. Managers should let workers take control of their time, West Duffy says. Leaders can communicate clear, reasonable expectations of when employees should be available, and they should also be careful about how and when they communicate these guidelines.

Working with people is the principle work that managers do, and it is the people component that generates the stress and can lead to burn-out syndrome, says Tim Taylor, director of leadership development firm Making Great Leaders. He explains: “The reaction may often be depersonalise, so that individuals in their team become ‘them’. They may approach the problem in an unfeeling or even callous manner. Then the blaming starts and conflict rises, a type of conflict that is destructive and unhealthy because it is emotionally confusing.”

” Stress in the workplace has serious consequences for the welfare of employees and ultimately for overall business, as research has shown clear links between stress, low productivity and staff retention rates.”


In order to deal with workplace conflict more effectively, managers have to acknowledge and recognise that the value they bring to the business is in their dealings with people. They also need to develop their self-awareness about the triggers and behaviour patterns that lead them to that first state of being emotionally over-extended. People that are taking longer to complete routine tasks, producing lower quality work, and strained working relationships between employees, are all signs of a workforce under pressure, and potentially affected by stress. 

In recognising or anticipating signs of elevated levels of stress, managers should encourage staff to talk openly about stress and conflict, and the challenges and barriers that exist within teams and outside them. These conversations should be constructive, work to share experiences, explore improvements that alleviate unnecessary stress that will bring everyone closer to achieving their goals. 

Personality clashes and stressful work environments can have a negative effect on personal well-being and emotional health, so perhaps a more worrying research finding was that 79% of employers admitted they found it difficult to deal with staff who struggle to control their temper. 

Conflict resolution conversations facilitated by a team leader will uncover problems and result in finding positive solutions. It is constructive to listen and acknowledge opposing ideas and points of view.

Stress management courses and certification are available on managing stress and wellbeing in the workplace that will equip managers with the tools they need to be comfortable in having open conversations with their team members. This will help leaders and managers to create a more harmonious and therefore less stressful work environment. 

“Emotionally, it’s healthier to put more energy focusing on yourself. As soon as we put energy into focusing on others, I think we lose, because we ultimately can’t control what they do.”

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Why Is It So Difficult For Leaders To Give Positive Feedback?

“Which is easier, giving positive feedback or negative?” The majority indicated that it was much easier to deliver positive feedback. One participant commented, “It’s not difficult to tell someone they are doing a good job but it’s much harder to say, ‘You messed up!’”


Joe Folkman and Jack Zenger (founders and thought leaders of two leadership development firms) created a self-assessment that measured a leader’s preference for giving or avoiding the two basic kinds of feedback. Positive feedback is defined as praise and reinforcement. Negative feedback is corrective and points out errors or missed opportunities.

For this study, they gathered a global sample of 8,671 leaders. The self-assessment reveals that 56% of the leaders had a stronger preference for giving negative feedback, 31% preferred giving positive feedback, and 12 were equal in their preference. These results stimulated the question, “Why do leaders prefer giving negative feedback despite describing it as more difficult to give than positive feedback?”

Attitudes And Assumptions

We then asked if the best managers are those who deliver more praise and recognition than negative feedback. Only 33% of leaders who preferred giving negative feedback agreed with the statement, compared to 77% of those that preferred giving positive feedback:

Many leaders assume that the most effective leaders are those that give people the tough, difficult feedback, while those who lavish praise and recognition are weak and ineffective leaders. Are managers who give more negative feedback than positive really the best managers?

To test this assumption, we combined the results from the self-assessment of feedback preferences report with 360-degree evaluations from managers, peers, direct reports, and others around their perceptions of a leader’s effectiveness.  The outcome measure we looked at was the overall leadership effectiveness rating, which combines results from competencies that predict leadership success.

Combining the databases, Leaders who prefer to give negative feedback had an overall effectiveness rating at the 35th percentile, while those who prefer to give positive feedback were at the 47th percentile. We performed a t-test and determined the difference between the two groups was highly statistically significant (t value = 3.395, Sig. 0.001).

It turns out the best leaders are those that prefer to give positive feedback.

Why are managers who give more negative feedback rated so poorly?

The data Joe Folkman and Jack Zenger collected indicates that when leaders prefer giving negative feedback, it conveys a lack of confidence in their colleagues and a primary focus on what employees might do wrong. These managers are perceived as quick to criticise and very slow to praise. This impacts relationships, trust, and integrity, and indicates that the manager does not have others’ best interest at heart.

Why do some people find it difficult to give positive feedback?

Many leaders are  receiving positive feedback, which can result in them not giving positive feedback to others. Many leaders, feel that the negative feedback will be more helpful. However, 71% of people say that they appreciate recognition and praise for a job well done. Many leaders fail to recognise the power of positive feedback and its benefit in motivating others. One concern is that if a leader provides too much positive feedback, the negative feedback will be ignored when delivered. However, research shows that leaders who have a strong preference for giving positive feedback are rated significantly higher on their ability to “Provide honest feedback in a helpful way.”

In fact, 92% of 8,542 respondents agree that “Negative feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.

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Factors that increase the amount of positive feedback

Looking at Zenger Folkman’s datasets, I discovered four behaviors that enabled leaders to provide more positive feedback.  Improvement of a few of these behaviors will help increase your ability to provide positive feedback.

1. Leaders who are interested in their own development tend to give more positive feedback to others. They have an improve mentality where they believe that because they can improve, others can as well. Leaders who are concerned about their own development tend to ask for feedback and are always open to ideas and suggestions.

2. Consideration for Others. There is a strong correlation between leaders who have a high concern for others and their effectiveness at giving positive feedback. When a leader is focused on negative feedback they are more likely to judge and evaluate others. Leaders who show consideration for others show they want the best for them.

3. Desire to Develop Others. Those who give more positive feedback believe that talent and skills are dynamic and are confident that people can grow and learn new skills. They look for and support development activities for others.

4. Strong Desire to Pull more than Push. Most leaders learn first about push motivation: set deadlines, help others be accountable, and push others to accomplish stretch and difficult goals. Those who provide more positive feedback also know how to pull. They get others excited about goals and objectives and inspire others to do more. They recognise others regularly, reward high performance, and are generous with their praise. 

Bottom Line

This set of research data provide compelling evidence that when leaders give more positive feedback than negative, they are perceived as more effective leaders. If you think you have developed a habit of focusing on what people do wrong rather than what they do right, try keeping track.

Continue to identify problems and illuminate weaknesses, but provide more honest praise when things go well, recognise effort, encourage the heart and thank others for their contributions.

If you can make this change, leaders will notice a positive difference in yourself and in others.

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