Gen Z is skeptical about school. What makes them happy?

Gen Z middle and high school students who say they aren't happy spend more time on social media and comparing themselves to others.

Gen Z students are looking for a sense of purpose but a large portion of that generation is not finding it in middle or high school, a new survey finds.

A little less than half of Gen Z middle and high school students said they feel motivated to go to school while only 52% reported doing something interesting every day in class, according to the latest poll from Gallup and the Walton Family Foundation.

Gen Zers were born between 1997 and 2012 and, despite the lack of motivation noted above, the younger members of this generation expressed high levels of happiness. Some 80% of 12- to 14-year-olds and nearly as many 15- to 17-year-olds described themselves as happy people. Those numbers steadily decline among members of the LGBTQ communities of all ages, college students and Gen Zers in their early- to mid-20s, the survey notes.

More from DA: Here’s why Gen Z students are less optimistic about their postsecondary opportunities

What’s driving Gen Z’s happiness? Young people who say they are happy are also more likely to report feeling safe at home, feeling loved and supported by others, getting enough relaxation and sleep and doing important things at school. Students who say they can talk to their parents about important issues also report a greater sense of wellbeing.

Gen Zers who describe themselves as unhappy tend to compare themselves to others frequently and feel that no one knows them, both of which lead to great levels of anxiety and depression. About one in three members of Gen Z do not often feel loved and supported, the survey found.

Social media also contributes to feelings of distress. A majority of Gen Zers who spend more than 20 hours per week on social media report frequent anxiety and stress while about half experience sadness regularly.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is the managing editor of District Administration and a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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