Think the millennials have it tough? For Generation K life’s even harsher
After our in-depth investigation of the issues faced by young adults, Noreena Hertz takes a look at the lives of todays teenagers, after interviewing 2,000 of them in the past 18 months and finds a generation who feel profoundly anxious and distrustful
When I came to recently from surgery, says Sarah, the first words Ive been told I uttered were not mum, or nurse, but iPhone, iPhone.
Eighteen-year-old Sarah is part of the Smartphone generation, aged 14-21, who roughly follow the millennial generation the Guardian has been focusing on during its two-week series on the issues faced by young adults aged 20-35 around the western world.
While technology is important to millennials, it is essential to those such as Sarah who come after, and are permanently switched on, multi-screening and multi-tasking. The most common name this group is given is Gen Z; I call them Generation K, after Katniss Everdeen, the determined heroine of the Hunger Games. Like Katniss, they feel the world they inhabit is one of perpetual struggle dystopian, unequal and harsh.
Life for us is hard. A struggle, says Jake, 16, I think weve got it much tougher than our parents generation. But we cant give up. If Jakes view sounds melodramatic to you, consider the World Health Organisaiton report, published this week, which suggests that British teenagers are among the most troubled in the world: of the 42 nationalities surveyed, only Macedonian and Polish teens are less happy with their lot. Our teenagers say they feel pressured by schoolwork and worried about the way they look. Researchers say they were particularly struck by how the life satisfaction of those aged 11-15 had gone down everywhere.
And little wonder: Generation K is coming of age in the shadow of economic decline, job insecurity, increasing inequality and a lack of financial optimism. When asked whether they think their lives are likely to be more of a struggle than those of their parents, their answer is an unambiguous yes: 79% worry about getting a job while 72% worry about debt and not only student loans. Asked to draw what debt means for them, the images they proffer include chains, shackles and prison bars. For me, debt is a cage in which we are trapped. An inevitable heavy weight that everyone in my generation is going to share, says Jake.