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What You Need to Know about Millennials and Mental Health in the Workplace

Before you brush off your low-performing Millennial employee as being “lazy,” consider their mental health.

Millennials, more than any other generation, suffer from depression, which is having an astounding effect on their work performance and ultimate career trajectory.


Depression is a disease, and while there are many treatments for it, there is not yet a cure. According to a study conducted by Bensinger, DuPont & Associates (BDA), one in five Millennial workers reported being depressed, in contrast to 16% of Baby Boomers and 16% of Gen Xers.

Millennials who suffer from depression face challenges in almost every aspect of work. Often the disease manifests itself both in the forms of absences from work, as well as “presenteeism,” or when someone shows up to work physically, but cannot function at his or her full capacity.

Presenteeism is certainly the greatest threat to people of all generations with depression, with 70% of Millennials reporting they are afflicted by it, and 68% of Gen X and 63% of Boomers saying depression induced presenteeism at their jobs.

Other impacts of depression in the workplace include tense work relationships or conflicts, and receiving verbal or written disciplinary action as a result of depression.

But what about the people for whom their depression is so great it keeps them from getting a job? The survey found that 12.4% of unemployed people say they are depressed, which only perpetuates a cycle: depression leads to worsening job performance, which leads to unemployment, which leads to further depression.

The Social Media Effect

While it is far from the only cause of depression, social media certainly doesn’t make it any easier. Facebook and Instagram have given Millennials the ability to glimpse into their friends’ and family’s lives, but we all know that people tend to post only the best pictures of themselves and report the best, most exciting news. This can be difficult for those suffering from depression, as it can seem like everyone is having fun and has their life in order, except for you.

In fact, even if the things you post on social media get a lot of likes, this can actually have an adverse effect. It turns out that notifications and “pings” that come with texts and “likes” makes your brain release dopamine, a pleasure molecule. If indulged too frequently, it can easily result in dependence, and ultimately depression.

The Corporate Ladder Isn’t for All

Work culture can have an immense amount of undue pressure on Millennials suffering from depression. This is especially true for a rigorous corporate environment, where everyone is trying to get ahead. It may go without saying that a person with depression will likely have trouble thriving in this environment, no matter how qualified or intelligent they may be.

So how can employers support their Millennial employees who suffer from depression? It might be frustrating because it can seem like they are disengaged. First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand the depression is a mental health issue. It’s not a character flaw or “laziness.” Communicating your support for them in the workplace will go a long way. They might also benefit from a different schedule or more flexible hours. If your workplace can accommodate that, offer some options.

For more on Millennials in the workplace, read our original study here.

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